The Illini basketball season basically mirrored the football season from last fall. Great start. High hopes at mid-season for a desirable post-season destination (major bowl game or NCAA Tournament). Then momentum seemed to turn on a dime and both seasons came crashing down in a staggering number of losses. Those mid-season collapses wound up costing both Ron Zook and Bruce Weber their jobs. It was ironic for both situations that fans were kind of excited to start the footbal land basketball seasons after an impressive bowl victory (Texas Bowl over Baylor) and a solid NCAA Tournament win (UNLV). Everyone felt pretty good at the start of both seasons.
The 2011 Illini football team did get to a December bowl game in beautiful San Francisco and came away with a nice consolation prize in a bowl victory. Unfortunately....the 2011-12 Illini basketball team will not be in any post-season after losing 12 of their last 14 games. That is hard to take....and I know the returning players will have a bitter taste in their mouth and will not want a repeat of what happened this year between mid January and early March They will have a chance to take the court again next fall under a new coach...and a will have a chance to make this past season a distant memory.
By the way....a final word about one of the true gentlemen of the college game .....Bruce Weber.
Of all the coaches (basketball/football) or managers (pro baseball) I have ever worked with....he was the most gracious and humble of all. He was generous with his time, always flexible with my interview requests .....and was always willing to share inside and background information on the team that helped me with my radio broadcasts. He made my job so much easier. Plus...he became a good friend over the years.
I understand the bottom-line business of college sports. Wins and losses and national rankings and championships are the foundation of any college sports program. Bruce understood that too.
But I can say that as far as someone who did things the right way....who treated everyone from richest donor to poorest college student the same ..and who was a first-class person who poured his heart and soul into his job and into the lives of his student-athletes...they dont come any better than Bruce Weber. He is #1 in my book in those areas.
The next play-by-play announcer who gets to work with Bruce will feel the same way I do after having spent 9 years of being around him. They will feel very lucky.
I can guarantee that.