While Illinois falters, Bruce Weber shines at Kansas State

While Illinois falters, Bruce Weber shines at Kansas State

After the 2012 season, Illinois couldn’t wait to get rid of Coach Bruce Weber. With all the “talent” the Illinois squad had, fans felt Bruce was the final roadblock in their return to contender status in the Big 10. Illini nation’s wish was granted, and Bruce was launched after the 2012 season. The results one might ask? Illinois continues to falter, while Weber is leading the Kansas State Wildcats to a top 15 ranking.

When Weber was announced as coach last March, Illinois fans chuckled at the hire. The sentiment around town was “good luck with that.” But the one thing Illinois fans forgot was the man can coach! Bruce Weber was the same guy who led Southern Illinois to a long run in the NCAA tournament before taking the Illinois job. At Illinois, he led the Fighting Illini to the National Championship in 2005. This isn’t a Tim Beckman like figure, the guy can coach basketball.

Weber is yet again proving himself to be an elite coach in college basketball this season at Kansas State. His squad is currently ranked 13th in the nation at 18-4 with impressive victories against the likes of Florida and Oklahoma State. Bill Self’s Kansas Jayhawks is the only team that stands between his team and a Big 12 Championship. Weber might have had a funeral for Bill Self during his time at Illinois, but this year, he’s hoping to bury him.

Weber’s team has a legitimate shot of winning the Big 12 and securing a #2 seed in the tournament without big name talents. He has done a great job using his depth and rotating players, finding the hot hand on a given night. Gone are the pressures of trying to please the “superstars” he had at Illinois during his last few seasons and back is the team atmosphere he had during his early years in Champaign. Weber’s biggest strength is having a deep team in which he can mix and match players. His 2005 squad was very deep, and we all saw how that turned out.

Meanwhile, The Illini continue to struggle mightily. Since entering Big 10 play, the Illini are 2-7. John Groce’s squad continues to abandon the driving game and settles for way to many threes. Groce is a good coach, but if you have soft basketball players, there is nothing he can do about that. As long as this team, especially Brandon Paul, continue to settle for long range jumpers on each possession, they aren’t going anywhere. It’s becoming apparent that it wasn’t the coaching last year; it was the rotten performance of the players.

A Bruce Weber detractor would fire back saying Bruce won with Bill Self’s guys and Groce is struggling with Weber’s terrible recruiting classes. All valid points, but when Weber brought in the likes of Brandon Paul, he was applauded for landing “Mr. Illinois.” When he got Jereme Richmond to sign with him instead of Duke, he was labeled a hero. Weber got the players the fans wanted, but not the guys to fit his program. Just because a player is talented, doesn’t mean he will fit your system. Bruce found that out the hard way at Illinois, and hopefully he continues to find his kind of “guys” at Kansas State.

While it might have been time for a new voice at Illinois, it had nothing to do with Bruce Weber’s coaching ability. The day Weber was fired, Big 10 coaches around the conference all showed their support for Weber and talked about not only the coach, but the man. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo went as far as saying “He's done it the right way. He doesn't cheat. He mans up to his own responsibilities. Incredible incredible person. I feel bad for the Illini nation because somebody's...somebody pulled the rug out from under them." Weber is yet again proving his place in college basketball as one of the best in the game and from one Illinois fan to another, I’m very happy for him.

Filed under: Illini, Illinois, NCAA

Tags: Bruce Weber, Illini, Illinois, NCAA


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    Thanks for writing what I've been saying since Bruce was fired. He ended up being the patsy for poor player performance. And while he admitted to not doing things "his way", the Illini made a mistake firing him. Don't get me wrong, I think Groce is doing a good job and will end up having a legacy like Weber(early years), Self, Kruger and Henson. But last year's debacle was more the fault of the players rather than the coach. I'll always be a fan of Weber and hope he continues to do well.

  • Coaching is as much about recruiting as instructing and x's and o's. Weber's recruits are well known throughout Illini Nation for being soft, underachievers, far from tough or physical, inconsistent, "quitters" after prolonged adversity (end of last season and then this one), lacking leadership, fight and determination. After Illinois resurgence and prominence in the early 2000's under Kruger and Self and Weber (with Self's recruits), Illinois went downhill fast from 2008 on with Weber coaching his own recruits and missed the NCAA tournament more than they made it. Don't glorify a coach that can't recruit and can't win in a power conference with his recruits.

  • Of course I was upset when Bruce Weber was let go. I loved playing against, and recruiting against, and beating him in the Big 10

  • Just a poorly written article. No fact checkers here? First of all Illinois wasn't lead to a national championship by weber, we lost. Secondly, that deep tournament run at SIU consisted of one Sweet sixteen run. Impressive yes, but hardly worth hanging an elite tag on like the author essentially did. Thirdly, it's way too many threes. Not to many. Please revisit this situation in three years, when Weber has his own players and Groce his own.

  • like Kathy responded I'm amazed that a mother can get paid $7344 in four weeks on the internet. did you read this page

  • This is a pretty short sighted article. Yes, KSU is having a nice season, but is that really a surprise? They had a nice core of players coming back, some polls a top 25 team preseason. He has already proven he can coach another guy's players, as pointed out already. However, when given time at this program I have no doubts his recruiting failures will rear their ugly head once again. By all indications, that is happening already. The bottom line is his record at Illinois was completely unacceptable, the program was stuck in the mud while others in the Big 10 were clearly moving forward. A change was absolutely needed and KSU having a "nice" season is completely irrelevant at this point.

  • what about all the big name recruits he landed: crandall head, jereme richmond, meyers leonard, eric gordon who left early, never came or did NOTHING while they were in C-U. when you have 4 failures to develop like that, you gotta blame the coach

  • In reply to Paul M. Banks:

    Bruce isn't the greatest coach ever, but the guy is a very solid basketball coach. I wouldn't include Head as "big time" recruit. But for the other three, Richmond was a bozo which is evident by his stints in jail. Leonard ended up a lottery pick under Bruce, so you can't say he didn't help develop him. And he lost Gordon due to some shady recruiting by Sampson at Indiana. Bruce is a solid coach, and it's a shame Illini fans considered him a joke when he left.

  • 48-56: Bruce Weber's Big10 record post-Dee Brown. He failed miserably at Illinois with his own recruits.

  • Bruce WHO???? ;)

  • In reply to Breal31:

    Another big win for Bruce today...sitting on top of the Big 12

  • In reply to Steve Huisel:

    Early bounce from the tournament as a 4 seed...then best player leaves team to be "close to family".

    Looks like this article was quite premature in it's "Illinois faltering and KSU dominating" theme....wouldn't you say Steve?

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