Klee: The story of Bruce Weber's firing — and what's on tap

Klee: The story of Bruce Weber's firing — and what's on tap

CHAMPAIGN — It was late Thursday night. Hours earlier, Illinois had been knocked out of the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis.

The six freshmen on the Illini roster convened in a private meeting at an off-campus home in Champaign-Urbana.

Their conversation was heavy stuff; for the teenagers, their futures were up in the air. The players held a group prayer, similar to how one of the freshmen entered Bruce Weber's office in February and offered to pray for the season. And they discussed what was coming Friday.

Their head coach would be fired.

It wasn't official yet. Weber didn't get the word until Friday morning just before 8.

But this seminal moment in the program's future — their future — had been building for weeks, weighing down a lost season, and the roster's core was preparing for the inevitable.

***

Athletic director Mike Thomas established open-minded guidelines for the next coach.

He prefers someone with head coaching experience but won't limit the pool to head coaches. He said the jackpot owed to fired coaches Ron Zook, Jolette Law and Weber — a combined buyout of $7.1 million — won't limit what he can pay the next basketball coach.

"Really, the thing that trumps all is we're going to do things the right way (in terms of the NCAA rules)," Thomas said.

He cited styles of play ("Some resonate more with your fans than others") and equal opportunities ("A diversified pool" of candidates) as factors in the hire.

"We're about winning championships," Thomas said. "I think that's an appropriate expectation to have."

There always is great fan interest in Illinois basketball. But it has lagged. Most recently that was evident Thursday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The crowd for Illinois' game against Iowa likely was the smallest to watch the Illini in a Big Ten tournament game. The Illini had only one sellout this season, a far cry from the 60-game sellout streak that ended in 2008.

"I do know there were a lot of empty seats this year," Thomas said. "I do know that's not what Illinois basketball is about."

Thomas said an invigorated fanbase also is paramount considering the renovation plans for the Assembly Hall.

"I think it's important that we have some energy as we transition into that phase," Thomas said.

Even while Illinois stumbled to a 17-15 record and missed the NCAA tournament for the second time in three seasons, Thomas said, "I don't really see it as a project."

Who sticks around will help determine that.

Sophomore center Meyers Leonard all but announced his intentions to enter the NBA draft after Thursday's loss to Iowa. He later joked with one staffer that he wasn't certain exactly how to declare. That he wondered aloud was an indication of his intentions.

"I just wish all the guys the best of luck. Hopefully they keep fighting," Leonard told media.

Illinois loses one scholarship senior — guard Sam Maniscalco. A likely scenario has junior guard Brandon Paul at least testing the waters of the NBA draft. His mother said Friday they haven't discussed that option and acknowledged Weber for being a "class act."

"That (draft) isn't something we're thinking about. I still think Brandon is a lottery-type player," Lynda Paul said. "He's got God-given gifts. Unfortunately he's not been able to display those for various reasons. I think certainly Brandon's best basketball is ahead of him."

The extended future of the program, however, is based in the underclassmen. The first priority for the next coach would be convincing the players he wants to stick around. One piece of advice for the unnamed coach: Don't let Tracy Abrams near the front door. His basketball game is a work in progress; his leadership traits are refined.

"I've been around Dee (Brown) and I've been around Tracy," UI interim coach Jerrance Howard said earlier in the week. "He's got the same (leadership) traits, that will to win."

One staffer said Abrams and Mike Shaw are the "ringleaders" of the younger players.

"He's always been that way," added John Jackson, an assistant coach at Chicago Mount Carmel. He has been a sort of mentor to Abrams since Abrams was 13. "People are drawn to him. I think the same has been true at Illinois since he's been there."

Other programs already are sniffing around through back channels to inquire if there would be potential transfers. Several sources close to the players said it would be important to have some continuity from the current staff to the next one.

"I want them to keep Jerrance. I think it's important these guys have that connection," said Phil Gipson, a mentor to Myke Henry that helped raise the freshman on Chicago's west side.

It's no coincidence that Howard was named interim coach, an indication he could be the lone staffer retained. Howard was the lead recruiter among the assistants on the freshman class. But the interim tag also comes with expectations, like an extended interview for a permanent spot.

"This is where I want to be. This is where my wife (Jessica) wants to be," Howard said earlier in the week. "I would be lying if I said I wanted to go somewhere else."

"I'm a big Jerrance Howard fan," said Thomas, who, it's worth noting, added the next coach would have final say on staffing. "I know he has great relationships with our student-athletes."

It would be rare for a new coach to retain a member of the previous staff. But in this case it could be the difference between losing several freshmen — and facing a multi-year rebuilding project — and keeping the core of the future roster intact.

Henry might have the most star potential among the freshmen. And it is a tight-knit bunch.

"You know how we feel about Coach Weber. Coach Weber is a wonderful man. He's a man of integrity," Gipson said. "That's why Myke went to Illinois. And hopefully when the new coach comes in, it's like a second chance for (Henry)."

Their coaching and life mentors are advising the players on future decisions.

"This is the rude awakening for the freshmen," said Illinois Wolves director Mike Mullins, who has four of his former players on the UI roster — and recruit Jalen James in the pipeline. "We used to tell them on (recruiting) visits it was a business trip. Now they're seeing the business side of college basketball."

Multiple players suggested the majority of the roster would prefer to decline a potential NIT bid. They have voiced that decision to coaches, according to sources. Their spirit is broken and the first game would be on the road, a combination that probably wouldn't end well.

The NIT bracket will be released Sunday night.

***

At his farewell address Friday, Weber said he would auction off his 72 orange ties to benefit Coaches vs. Cancer. He cracked a smile at the thought of helping someone again.

He hasn't been able to smile often enough over the past two months. And the reasons the emotions have been so thick go beyond basketball. His daughter Christy is an Illinois graduate. His youngest daughter, Emily, is a UI student on the cheerleading team.

It wasn't just this season and its disappointments that weighed on his heart. This was his 27th season in the Big Ten as an assistant or a head coach. And one of only four where his team had a conference record below .500 (6-12).

"I haven't slept or ate in 24 hours," said Weber, who in nine seasons was 210-101 overall and 89-65 in the Big Ten.

Weber knew he would be fired. Two days before the Big Ten tournament, while returning home from a recruiting trip, Weber said, "I just hope we have a strong finish to leave a positive note."

And his greatest character trait was on display in the final hours of his tenure. He knew his own job was slipping away. Even so, every night he called SIU coach Chris Lowery and assistant Brad Korn before and after a coaching change in Carbondale.

"He wanted to make sure we're OK," Korn said. "That's the kind of person he is."

His approach to life in the final days of his tenure weren't, in fact, that different from the highest point of his career.

At 3 a.m. on the day he would coach Illinois in the 2005 NCAA championship game, Weber was in his hotel suite watching film of North Carolina. All the sudden — again, at 3 a.m. — he dialed the number of a friend to let him know there would be a ticket waiting at will call.

"I wanted to go to the title game, but there was no way I was calling him for a ticket. I didn't want to bother him," said SIU radio voice Mike Reis, who used that ticket. "But there he was calling to ask if I wanted to come. I said, 'What do you mean, If, coach? Of course I do.' "

Weber has always worn his emotions just above the "BBW" initials stitched on his shirt cuffs. After his SIU team beat Georgia to reach the Sweet 16, he cried, saying, "I wish my dad could be here. He would be so proud."

The stories of Weber's goodwill seemingly are endless. And those who would know suggest his being a good human too often overshadow his coaching ability.

Still, in moments of clarity, even Weber would admit he stayed at Illinois too long. Interest came from Oklahoma after last season. Weber turned it away to stay closer to family and coach the current players at Illinois.

"This group was special," Weber said. "I don't know I've had a better character group in all my years of coaching."

The next step for Weber likely will be known in the coming weeks. Several programs have inquired about his interest in open or soon-to-be open positions. Weber is expected to have an interview with another school within the next week, according to a source outside of the UI program.

He won't be out of coaching for long. Weber doesn't have hobbies or play tennis anymore, not after pulling a hamstring during a vacation. He has family and basketball, as Lowery said.

"This is what I do," Weber said last week. "It's who I am."

The future for the rest of the coaching staff is up in the air. Assistant Jay Price is in the mix for the vacant head coaching job at Eastern Illinois. Howard has the interim tag and hopes to remain at Illinois. Associate head coach Wayne McClain hopes to stay within the DIA in some capacity — an unwrittten promise made to him by the previous administration when he stayed at Illinois despite overtures from Bill Self to leave for Kansas in 2003.

McClain was the bridge between the Self and Weber eras. He helped deliver the Peoria Three — Frank Williams, Marcus Griffin, Sergio McClain — that gave the program a rebirth. He came up with the idea to play Dee-Deron-Luther together in a three-guard backcourt that carried the Illini to a school-record 37 wins and the 2005 NCAA title game.

"He is a special man," Weber said of McClain. "I don't know if I've met anyone (better) in my life."

The program stagnated in the era A.D., showing a mediocre 50-56 Big Ten record since Dee Brown was at the reins. The coaching change was necessary. Weber said as much.

"This is a bottom-line business. We all know it," he said. "It's the reality of the coaching profession."

Still, the change didn't come without emotion — as much of a trademark of the Weber era as the motion offense.

"Every time I visit St. Louis I think about the Final Four experience (in 2005)," Weber said. "I still can remember standing on top of the hotel and looking out and seeing tens of thousands of Illinois fans covering the streets in orange, an amazing sight."

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buck999999 wrote on March 10, 2012 at 7:03 am

Mark my words, Mike Thomas will lead the Illini to a significant NCAA ban.  This guy is worthless.  Illini will NEVER find a better man, coach and leader than Bruce Weber.

PeterE wrote on March 10, 2012 at 9:03 am

Thomas is worthless? Take step back and look in the morror. What you see is worthless. Noticed this of Weber lovers, they talk/act like religious zealots - Taliban extremists.

houstonillini84 wrote on March 10, 2012 at 10:03 am

Uh, compared to what the Weber-haters say, that is nothing. The guy is allowed to think Thomas is not a good AD just like you are allowed to think Weber is not a good coach. 'Taliban extremists', LOL, hyperbole much??

read the DI wrote on March 10, 2012 at 1:03 pm

ADs AD, coaches coach, and trolls troll.

trueillinifan wrote on March 10, 2012 at 4:03 pm

you go houston illini and buck. petere and read the di have been slinging their crappy comments all season long. They always try bullying people who dont agree with them with personal attacks instead of staying on the topic of basketball.  I hope we find someone with morales and ethics just as high as Weber's who can win enough games not to get fired but I think we all know we will be back here in 3 to 5 years unless the next coach is smart enough to leave while on top.

read the DI wrote on March 11, 2012 at 9:03 pm

We're right. You're wrong. And the record proved it.

JDG613 wrote on March 10, 2012 at 11:03 am

PeterE - Just because someone may happen to think highly of a coach who operates within the rules and with integrity doesn't mean they are unreasonable with their own visions of right/wrong. It seems pretty obvious that Weber is a good man, and a good coach overall.  It also seems apparent that his approach doesn't marry well with the bigger university system, but that doesn't make him bad.

Your reference to a group known for mass murder of the worst kind is not only inappropriate, it's ridiculous and immature.  But then, I have to admit that your posts are at least consistent in that regard.

Bear8287 wrote on March 10, 2012 at 10:03 am

Class comment Buck.

So what part of: "Really, the thing that trumps all is we're going to do things the right way (in terms of the NCAA rules)," makes you think that there'll be NCAA issues?

I backed Coach Weber and as an Illini fan I'll back Athletic Director Mike Thomas too.

Has anyone checked to see which teams are playing in the Big East Tournament Final game? Mike Thomas hired one of those coaches.

Chill out Buck and give Mike Thomas a chance.

"Still, in moments of clarity, even Weber would admit he stayed at Illinois too long." --PK

This move wasn't just about one season...

 

urbanaman wrote on March 10, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Weber has "led" us to missed NCAA tourney berths. In his defense, though, he did lead us to the BUBBLE of the prestigious NIT this year. A real Alexander the Great, this guy...

Seagee wrote on March 10, 2012 at 2:03 pm
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Can we PLEASE stop impugning people's personal integrity just because they make decisions we don't like ??

Mike Thomas has a long record in athletic administration.  Can you point to ONE single instance where he cut ethical corners or hired someone who had ANY NCAA violations ??

I love Bruce as a human, but any B1G coach would be on the hot seat after losing the majority of conference games over the last 5 years and only scoring a single NCAA tourney win during the same period.  No one can say that after 9 years on the job, Coach Weber was not given a fair opportunity.  I honestl believe his integrity would make him an incredible AD down the road.

Illini '73 wrote on March 10, 2012 at 7:03 am

Weber is a good man.  Too bad it didn't turn out better.  At least he leaves with no scandals in his wake.  I wish him good luck wherever he goes next.

read the DI wrote on March 10, 2012 at 8:03 am

Thomas understands what Weber did not -- winning college basketball means 1) recruiting talent and 2) playing basketball the right way. Weber certainly was right in that he "coached not to lose." That four-corners style "motion" offense was AWFUL to watch. Completely boring! And the whole reason Weber coaches it is to shorten the game and hope he can win it at the end. That's no fun for the kids, no fun for the fans and, to his credit, Thomas understands that and jettisoned the man responsible.

I'd rather lose well-played and well-coached games than win watching Weber's pitiful excuse for college basketball.

 

houstonillini84 wrote on March 10, 2012 at 9:03 am

yeah, that motion offense was so boring in 2005.

Uh, maybe not.

PeterE wrote on March 10, 2012 at 9:03 am

Weber worshipers like to live in the past. FYI: 2005 was seven years ago and the program has been trending downhill ever since Self's star recruits were gone. Weber showed how mediocre he is by bungling recruiting and development, teaching and coaching of his own recruits. Better days are ahead with a new coach better suited to the rigors of coaching contenders. Weber will be better off in a scaled back, less stressful, less demanding environment and it will be WIN-WIN for everyone.

houstonillini84 wrote on March 10, 2012 at 10:03 am

I dont care if it was 100 years ago, the poster said the motion offense was boring, and frankly thats a bad generalization given that 2005 was the best offense we had seen since 1989. My comment wasnt about Weber being fired or not being fired, it was simply a response to the silly generalization about the motion offense. I mean, Michael Jordan was at his best a decade before 2005 but that doesnt make his seasons in the 80s and 90s any less spectacular.

urbanaman wrote on March 10, 2012 at 11:03 am

Houston - Quit your quibbling and backtracking. You know you were/are a "Weber Worshipper," like Peter describes. You cite the 05 season and act like Weber single-handedly took this MEGA-talented group all the way on his own. That group could have gone a long way with NO ONE standing on the sideline screaming. Get out of the past, man! Coaching is a What-have-you-done-for-me-lately business. The coaches themselves all know that! Why can't you WWs (Weber Worshippers) get that through your heads? I'm a Bob Zuppke fan but he's gone. No looking back. Get it? Man up and admit you were ultimately wrong about Weber. BRUCE WEBER IS A NICE MAN AND I'D EVEN ACCEPT A DINNER INVITATION FROM HIM AND HIS WIFE (although we'd inevitably strat talking about why he's not fit for a major program...;) This isn't about Bruce Weber as a person. Read that again.

A great coach or player isn't about ONE SEASON. Let it go. Get on board with our new, quality AD and enjoy the ride. Weber had nine friggin' years to establish a program, how about you WWs giving Thomas just a couple and see how he does? To quote you, houston - "Jeesh."

read the DI wrote on March 10, 2012 at 1:03 pm

right on.  Houston spends all day responding to comments on this site. He should go learn something about hoops instead.

houstonillini84 wrote on March 10, 2012 at 5:03 pm

well I knew the motion offense looked outstanding in 2005 which is a lot more than you knew, apparently.

read the DI wrote on March 11, 2012 at 7:03 pm

Three words: Wiliams, Head, Brown.

 

The motion offense was grossly overrated even then. Now, it's just a bad joke.

houstonillini84 wrote on March 10, 2012 at 5:03 pm

I didnt say it was about one season. I simply pointed out that the motion offense looked pretty darned good in in the 2005 era. Blame Weber for lack of talented players after that but its dumb to make blanket generalizations about the motion offense when it brought us the greatest success of any offense since 1989. Hell, it was shown on Sportscenter more than once as a showcase for passing and finding the open man, and didnt Wooden (!!) even mention how good it looked?

I dont know if we have a good AD or not, that remains to be seen, and of course I will give the new coach some time. Where did I say I wouldnt? In fact when others are already blaming him, I will probably say exactly that, give the guy some time.

dljonesz wrote on March 10, 2012 at 8:03 am

Folks, move the emotion and personal feelings about Weber away for a minute about will you. As Weber said in HIS press conference ....."it is a bottom line business". Bruce Weber was fortunante to have the chance to coach at one the best public universities in the country for a long time and be paid very well for doing it. He was protected by his (former) boss way too long (3 years in my opinion) when it was evident he was not producing up the the expectations of most everyone associated with the program. 


MT did the RIGHT thing and took steps that RG never had the guts to do. Bruce will find a new job, enjoy the 3.9 million he did not earn, and It will be a new and exciting chapter for UI basketball....... 

Illinibacker wrote on March 10, 2012 at 9:03 am

Mike Thomas is worthless?   Absurd.  You are worthless.  MT is cleaning up the awful stench that Guenther left.  Thank heavens he was hired.  How RG managed to survive 19 years with his performance is just mind numbing.

houstonillini84 wrote on March 10, 2012 at 9:03 am

'stench'? Hyperbole much?

And actually wasnt it under RG that we went to a NC game, and had the string of basketball success that raised expectations so much? Didnt RG hire Kruger and Self and the guy who took us to that NC game? Its pathetic how people want a whipping boy and cant objectively look at both sides. Also we'll see if Thomas can keep the AD out of the red like RG did, looks to me like we're on the hook for millions with no improvement in sight.

Illiniwek11 wrote on March 10, 2012 at 9:03 am

 "we're on the hook for millions"

We?  What this "we" stuff.  Weren't you on this site just yesterday complaining about the fact that people calling for Weber's head won't pay up to buy him out.  That all we do is complain and let the rich donors pay up?

Look, we get the fact that you are an arrduent Weber supporter and think that as long as a head basketball coach doesnt get the program in trouble, then he should have a job for life.  Forget the NCAA tourney, the NIT and CBI are just as exciting .  Forget only filling up the Assembly Hall half-full, those people not coming are just complainers and bigots.  Forget winning, we should just be happy that the team "participated" in a sporting event (isnt that what were teaching our kids nowadays?).

I'm sorry that you have no expectations for this team or program so that you are happy with the status quo.  But stop attacking every post on this site just because they disagree with you.  And please, please stop with your doomsday predicitions of Illinois getting the "Death Sentence" from the NCAA and IL bball never winning another game ever again.  It makes you seem pathetic.

 

houstonillini84 wrote on March 10, 2012 at 10:03 am

yes, 'we'. I am a U of I alum, and a contributor to U of I. I think of the program as 'we', even though I graduated more than two decades ago. And if that doesnt qualify me for 'we', certainly when they want me to write a check, THAT qualifies me.

And by the way, I never said Weber shouldnt be fired, and I certainly never said he should have a job for life. I think he had to be let go because he had lost the faith of the fan base. But that doesnt mean I cant think he is a good coach. As far as the 'death sentence' stuff, I never said that, hopefully Thomas doesnt hire anyone like that! But i suppose we never really know what will happen with a new coach, on the court or off. Anyway, lay off the strawmen, and I respond to what I actually say, not some gross exaggerate so much.

illiniphil85 wrote on March 11, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Only a classless, coward like Bruce Weber would use a surrogate to rip the AD that was only carrying out his job. Happy days are here again.

afan wrote on March 10, 2012 at 9:03 am

Weber won over 23 games a year with Illinois.  He had a down year this year while integrating 7 new players and 3 first time starters.  All while playing in the toughest conference in college basketball this year.  The team lost confidence and hear late in the year, but I think that was more a factor of their backloaded schedule and youth than anything Weber did or didn't do.  Weber's style rubbed some fans the wrong way, but his so called failures are greatly exaggerated, and his successes have been minmized.  He leaves a squad loaded with tallent and game experience for the next regime.  Weber will find a new job and he'll be fine.  Illinois should do well next year if they can keep the current team together, but we'll have to wait and see if they win 23 games a year for the next 9 years while maintaining the same squeaky clean program Weber ran.  I don't think it's the sure thing many Illinois fans seem to believe it is.

helping wrote on March 10, 2012 at 10:03 am

Had a down year this year???? Talk about revisionist history! The fact is that Illinois has missed the NCAA tournament in 3 of the last 5 years. Weber lost the majority of fanbase and the majority of his Big Ten games over his last 5 seasons.

afan wrote on March 10, 2012 at 12:03 pm

helping,

Weber averaged 23 wins per year including this year.  This year his team won 17 games.  17 is less than 23, therefore this was a down year.  I'm sorry if my facts don't support your view of reality.

helping wrote on March 11, 2012 at 12:03 pm

Over the last 5 years Weber's teams averaged 8 wins in the Big Ten. That's a down half-decade, not merely a down year!

afan wrote on March 11, 2012 at 3:03 pm

All the games count, just a heads up for you.

Smitto wrote on March 11, 2012 at 9:03 pm

Five of Weber's nine teams won less than 23 games, so by your standards he had down years over half (55%) of his time here.

Also of note: one of those nine seasons was a 23 win season, so technically that shouldn't be considered an above average season either. So that bumps his "down year" total to 66%

You should probably research your facts a little better if you are gong to use a stat that includes one 37 win season amongst 5 (or 6) "down" seasons (according to your 23 win/season mark of success).

PeterE wrote on March 10, 2012 at 9:03 am

"I still think Brandon is a lottery-type player," Lynda Paul said. "He's got God-given gifts. Unfortunately he's not been able to display those for various reasons. I think certainly Brandon's best basketball is ahead of him." - Interesting comment by Brandon's mother.

I hope everyone on the roster stays and new coach keeps the 2013 recuits too. The new coach has a chance to craft the roster in the next couple of years into very special team.

helping wrote on March 10, 2012 at 10:03 am

All I know is that the last basketball coach that Mike Thomas hired is playing for the Big East championship later today!

illinirev wrote on March 10, 2012 at 10:03 am

DI, care to retract this post?


I'd rather lose well-played and well-coached games than win watching Weber's pitiful excuse for college basketball.


That is a patently false premise.  You'd rather lose than win? Strange.


 

read the DI wrote on March 11, 2012 at 7:03 pm

No retraction. As bad as the results have been, the style of play has been even worse. Just a couple guys dribbling around the perimeter while the others stand around, waiting for the clock to wind down to 2, at which point the man with the ball launches an ugly 3.

What Weber and others of his ilk call coaching, the rest of us call bad basketball. It stinks to watch a 51-49 game, even if we win. If it's winning all the time that I need, I'll watch the Lakers. I want entertainment.

jturner wrote on March 10, 2012 at 11:03 am

Per Paul, keeping a coach from a previous staff is rare.  Such rare occurances have happen each of the last two changes at Illinois.   Self kept Judson, Bruce kept Wayne.  More hope for Jerance than Paul might imply.   Wayne the best example as that change occurred with an outstanding freshman class in place. 

bluehavana wrote on March 10, 2012 at 11:03 am

illinirev,

I do not know the sum total of readthedi's comments, but in some respect I agree with what you find strange.

Watching good basketball and football is what Illinois fans did not get to do much this year.  Similar to last season, when Illinois defeats MSU without Kalin Lucas.  Fans like I am get excited for those wins too, but can be honest at what helped contribute to the wins.  I'll give you one example in the Big 10 this season.  OSU plays on the road vs Kansas to a tight loss without Sullinger.  Kansas shouldn't party like it's 1999, but OSU sure knows they have a tough team to fight in that environment without their superstar.

Neither the football or basketball early schedules taught the players or coaches anything about their teams.  Michigan State started with Duke and UNC.  Not hard for Izzo to explain to his players why they need to improve.

I'd rather go 19-12 playing solid basketball against very tough competition than go 23-8 vs weak non conference opponents.  This years Illinois schedule only featured tough teams when it had to...Missouri, Big10/ACC challenge Maryland, UNLV United Center game.  The one exception was Gonzaga.  You can often tell what a coaching staff thinks of its team by the schedule the staff puts together.

 

IlliniGator14 wrote on March 10, 2012 at 4:03 pm
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You're right.  Young team in a year when you have a new AD and your job is on the line. Why didn't Weber play at Kentucky, at Duke, at Kansas to toughen the guys up.  That way the fans could have turned on them even before the start of the BT season. 

bluehavana wrote on March 10, 2012 at 6:03 pm

IlliniGator,

You're going to have to start a petty comment contest with someone else.  Your response, in my opinion, is in no way a reflection based in fact of anything I mentioned.  

Mike Thomas was hired long after the 2011-2012 basketball schedule was completed.  Playing a tough non conference team at least will provide a measuring stick of the capabilities of a team.  In no way does a KU, UK, Duke trio of away games land as something I, or any other fan would recommend.  So why do you choose to place this as your response?

I was far from the leader of the "Fire Bruce" bandwagon.  However, in one Saturday Sportsline, Loren Tate said the Illini were playing mediocre basketball but winning games.  On that same show, a Coach Weber press conference replay quoted him saying, "I don't know why anyone is negative about us, we're 15-3 and first in the Big10."  If there were some people making it personal and unfair then, that was too much.  But it wasn't too much for keen basketball fans to know this wasn't a good Illini basketball team.  More than anyone else, the head coach should have had the perspective to know the difference.

I wish he could have sat with Mike Thomas, explained how the program would change going forward (culture of toughness), and kept his job.  Clearly things didn't work out that way. 

 

 

read the DI wrote on March 11, 2012 at 7:03 pm

Watching good basketball and football is what Illinois fans did not get to do much this year.

...

Neither the football or basketball early schedules taught the players or coaches anything about their teams.

...

I'd rather go 19-12 playing solid basketball against very tough competition than go 23-8 vs weak non conference opponents.

 

Spot on.

freddiebill wrote on March 10, 2012 at 11:03 am

 Hi i'm new to your qurom of do and & don't . This is my opinion; I sure wish they would play in the nit, with a different coach. A coach that would let them run & gun . Teach them to hussle ; Botton line no hussle no play

allillini wrote on March 10, 2012 at 12:03 pm

I feel really bad for Weber and his family, about how they must feel. He is a first class man for sure. I don't know how many coaches get fired for winning 17 games, beating two top ten teams, while playing with nearly all freshman and sophomores? We usually have to wait until their junior and senior years before they are that well developed. Not to mention that we also lost 6 games or so by 4 points or less. That puts us awfully close to 23 wins with a group of very young players. Yes I realize you are expected to win every year, but I really wonder how many coaches in the country could have done any better with a group this inexperienced? Why hasn't Northwestern fired their coach for being on the bottom every year, etc, etc. I know Bruce will do great somewhere else real soon, and I am sure he will not need the money, but I hope we do not give up a clean run program just to get better players, and then end up on sanctions and years of rebuilding. I think it is obvious that his players like him, and as far as him not developing players goes, how do explain Meyers Leonards transition from not being able to even stand up to becoming an NBA prospect in one year?

John M wrote on March 10, 2012 at 12:03 pm

Dear Bruce Weber,


Thank you for your service as UI basketball coach. Your work influenced my two sons to attend UI where they are today. In 2005 our family of four (UI mom and dad and 2 boys) was driving to Denver for spring break. We stopped in Lincoln, Nebraska so that we could watch the UI/Arizona tournament game. We were the only UI fans in a crowed Lincoln sports bar. As anyone reading this knows, what we saw that night was the greatest basketball game of all time and did we have fun with all those UI haters at the sports bar! We ran to our car in the parking lot after the game and could just barely get Chicago radio to hear the magical post-game interview with Loren and Bruce! We were glad to have satellite radio for the rest of the drive because it was all UI on the radio all the way to Denver and on the drive home. We re-routed our trip home through St. Louis for final four weekend where we were part of the seas of orange. As we approached St. Louis, we were treated to a radio replay of the UI/Arizona game. We knew what happened but the replay was super special! We couldn’t get into the final four game but we were glad to be among the UI fans. That was a magical week for our family and got our kids thinking UI. So I wanted to say something positive on this message board (a seeming rarity) and to thank you Bruce Weber for touching my family and good luck to you and your family.


John Munger UI 1981.

DaisyJ wrote on March 10, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Remember,,, how hard it was for him to keep a straight face when Guenther gave him all that money on the outrageous contract a few years back. I see where he has had trouble sleeping. Well, lots of us fans will have trouble sleeping thinking about all his millions he will get when people are hurting, starving, hungry, out of work, no hope, gas at $5 per gallon, remember those folks. And remember this, he let Paul screw up game after game. He was so stubborn he delcared he was too good to play zone. He let the person I cannot stand, Bobby Knight humiluate him 13 tmes when BK kept pointing out how during the game that it is stupid (and it is) to waste Leonards time 20 feet from the basket.  He ran off Crandal Head, and now we see why. He discovered Bertrand and Henry can play only to still go in favor of Griffey and Sam. And Sam,,just what the H is that all about. I can go on, but more than likely, you will never understand that he had 9 years, and gobs of money, horrendous gobs of money given to him and that money was intended for performace, not loses.

OhReally wrote on March 10, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Daisy, let me ask you a question. Do you know what a pick and roll is? Do you really even watch the games? If you have a weak passing team that won't swing the ball from side to side, which if done correctly would have allowed Leonard to patrol the lane from block to block. That didn't work. Even when Meyers begged the guards to reverse the ball so he could go to the other block and be open for a nice entry pass they wouldn't do it. So Weber tried a pick and roll and the guards still couldn't get him the ball when he was open. I guess on the other hand it was probably hard for Brandon to think about passing when all he wanted to do after the OSU game was shoot, shot, and shoot some more.

 

DaisyJ wrote on March 10, 2012 at 2:03 pm

I know what the pick and roll is. I know some guards can do something with it, and some centers have footwork to roll. I know with all the games leading up to the BK game he commented on, the pick and roll with Leonard had miserably failed time after time, and failed the rest of the way, all the way to the last game Weborn coached. I also see we came closer to scoring using the pick and roll offense game after game after game  mostly 50 points a game on average.

Weborn created his own undoing. He is the reason he has been fired. He never changed up or got the kids to be successful. That is his job,  C O A C H...he gets credit for wins and loses.

IlliniGator14 wrote on March 10, 2012 at 4:03 pm
Profile Picture

Again - the zone talk - we'll at least you are consistent.   So be consistent when the next coach is hired at even more money- and make sure you criticize him beofre his first Illinois win or loss.  Maybe we can find the perfect coach; 1) He'll work for minimum wage 2) he'll play only zone defense 3) he'll consult with Bobby Knight and committ to just do the opposite of whatever the general suggests.

DaisyJ wrote on March 10, 2012 at 5:03 pm

To declare you will not play zone defense ever is most likely the dumbest thing I have ever heard any coach utter, let alone a D1 coach..

All BK was saying was the obvious, and another obvious thing now is this, Weborn is out of a job.

 

And, we all know, that Brad Steven took two teams to the final 4 for far less money honey.

houstonillini84 wrote on March 11, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Jim Boeheim wont play a man-to-man at Syracuse, is he dumb?

Brad Stevens is 20-14 this year in a weak league. Not clear if he is a really good coach or just caught lightning in a bottle. I mean, Bruce Weber had a better team in 2004-5 than any Butler team yet you think he is a bad coach, so why is Brad Stevens such a great coach when he has a similar record in a far weaker league??

DaisyJ wrote on March 11, 2012 at 6:03 pm

Goofyhoustin...goofy person,,,Weber did not Win 30 games either. So, makes Weborn still dumb but Boeheim pretty smart. , or is 30 - 1 dumb to you.

read the DI wrote on March 11, 2012 at 7:03 pm

Daisy, Houston is a classic troll. She brings nothing to the debate except whining and name-calling. She's troll-tastic.

read the DI wrote on March 11, 2012 at 7:03 pm

You can go back to Henson in the late 80s to find that even coaches who live and died with man-to-man would use the zone sparingly in order to show a different look. It took some time, but by the end of his career at Illinois, Henson clearly was outcoaching Knight in head-to-head matchups because he was willing to break from the predictable. Not for entire game, mind you, but for 3 or 4 trips down the court. It was always enough to win a couple of possessions, and usually that was the difference between winning and losing the game.

No one is suggesting Weber should have gone all Syracuse on everyone. But showing a different look every once in a while would have been smart.

BradStevens wrote on March 10, 2012 at 3:03 pm

If he got fired for one bad season then I would be on board with you.  Unfortunately, Bruce Weber's firing garnered as much attention as Doc Sadler's firing.  If this doesn't tell you anything about the relevancy of Illinois basketball then I don't know what does.  If you don't lioke winning a lot of games or playing for Big 10 championships or national championships, Bruce is your guy.  He doesn't know how to recruit to his system or can't fight through the glass ceiling the Illinois program has in the state.  If the latter is the case, he should have recruited out of state exclusively.  

Weber was an average coach that was lucky to get another coaches recruits.  He took us to the NC game and I give him that...I just didn't think going to that game would cost us relevancy.

BradStevens wrote on March 10, 2012 at 3:03 pm

If you're not relevant and barely making the tournament or not making the tournament at all, it doesn't matter how nice of a guy you are or how clean of a program you run.  Bruce was 50 - 56 in the Big 10 since Dee left.  This tells you a lot.  Illinois is no longer a relevant program when talking about the top programs in the NCAA.

I understand some of you consider Bruce a success because he does things the right way and I get that.  The problem is, Mike Thomas stated that he wants to compete for championships and our basketball team hasn't even sniffed a Big 10 championship since 2005.  I support what Mike did and hopefully the next coach will take us back to the elite level we enjoyed in the first half of the last decade.

Sorry but I'm almost 50 years old and I would like to win a National Championship before I die.  Bruce Weber could never do that with the way he recruits and develops players.

trueillinifan wrote on March 10, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Where to we send money to donate to the slush fund?


 

rlprllama wrote on March 10, 2012 at 4:03 pm

How To Win By Losing. 


     No need to feel sorry for any of the coaches who have been "fired" this year.  They will do just fine.  When mere mortals are fired from their jobs, their remedy is to file for unemployment and prove they weren't fired "for cause".  I am in tune with the statements that no state or university funds will be utilized to pay the millions left on these 3 coaches contracts; nonetheless, it sure does bring home the caste system that exists in this Midwestern college community.  I'd suspose too that the coaches will collect their SURS retirements  as well; whether the balance of their contract pay-outs also count towards SURS retirement contributions, is something we'd need to ask the SURS experts.  Even though the departues are characterized as "firings", given their golden parachutes, no one's being penalized.  Even if no other schools anywhere picked up these discarded coaches, they're still in the 1%, and if they've invested wisely, could spend the rest of their days on Planet Earth without ever having to work again.  Something the rest of us, ardent fans included, could only dream of.  Illini fans should never make the mistake of thinking they belong to the same country club of U of I coaches or AD's or administrators for that matter.  There's many different worlds that exist within our twin-cities and nothing makes that more clear than the paychecks of university coaches.  Great gig if you get it.

bluehavana wrote on March 10, 2012 at 5:03 pm

.

jturner wrote on March 10, 2012 at 7:03 pm

It's too bad that BP's god given talents don't include dribbling and passing.  It that were the case Bruce might still be with us.  I don't think too many turnover machines are lottery picks.

MT is awesome wrote on March 11, 2012 at 9:03 am

Dude you're out of control.

He averaged 23 wins, but if you take out his first three seasons (when he had Self's recruits), he averaged 20 wins 14-15 losses.  20-14 is not good.  In conference he averaged 8-10 during that time.  So, he was an awful coach and it was time to go.

afan wrote on March 11, 2012 at 3:03 pm

All the seasons Weber coached count the same, but thanks for playing, dude.

DaisyJ wrote on March 11, 2012 at 6:03 pm

Stitched initials on his shirts,,is that what he has been spending his millions on per year. Lets see, forget the perks, ,,1.3 Million per year means his paycheck each week was....about $27,000,,, where do you go, what bank to cash your $27,000 per week check,,,and he will get this sitting on his butt for the next three years,,,,

Guess he needed more to help him sleep at night,,,I know, I could sleep with that kind of mulah, not to mention Country Club.

But no, brought the wife and kids out, got the crying stuff going, and all the while, a couple of uncashed checks were stuffed in his back pocket. Heck, he probably had close to $125,000 in checks on him that he did not have time to drop off at the bank...Give me a freakin BREAK

arancione wrote on March 11, 2012 at 7:03 pm

Klee's right.  The basketball teams have lsot their identity.  The Flying Illini and the 2005 team had identities, aggressive, fast moving, tough.  Weber lost this identity when he concentrated on a half court game on both offense and defense.  We certainly don't want a "Purdue" identity (I'll take Rick Mount no questions asked though).  As for the upcoming NIT (hopefully as I write this) - Let the freshmen play!!!!  I don't care if they lose.  Let them play a game without the constant yelling and looking over their shoulders.


Sam, Thanks for helping TA along.

butkus50 wrote on March 11, 2012 at 9:03 pm

Weber is smiling all the way to the bank while the players and fans watch almost 100 other teams still play. Weber is and was the wrong guy for Illinois. His rigid system is all he has and when the players don't fit that system, they lose. I have not seen one of Weber's recruits improve over time and in some cases they have regressed. DJ was big ten freshman of the year and now look at his performance. If Weber doesn't have a point guard, he blames the ones not made for that position instead of his failure to recruit. Next year he has nothing coming in that will help Illiniois which is typical for most of his classes. He has one of the most talented freshman class in country and how much did he play them? If Sam M had been able to play, I wonder how much Abrams would have played. Most of us may agree Weber is a good man but that is not the point, we need a good coach and in my opinion, Weber is not a good head coach. Not at the big 10 level anyway. Watching games this weekend was enjoyable. Interesting how most teams shot well, rebounded well, and played many freshman brought along during the year; something Weber never has done. Weber had a terrible record this year and still only played his freshman limited minutes. I will not miss Weber for one minute no matter who the next coach is. I have watched and cheered for Illinois for over 40 years and look forward to continuing under new leadership. I think our basketball head job is more sought after than our football head job. Good luck Thomas and I think and hope we get a good head coach with some Illinois or at very least midwest roots.

DaisyJ wrote on March 11, 2012 at 9:03 pm

Butkus,,,perhaps one of the best comments I have ever read on this subject. DEAD ON.

VERY DEAD ON. THANK YOU. A GREAT SUMMATION

Oak Park Illini wrote on March 12, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Agreed 150% Butkus. That about sums it up about Bruce Weber: a great human being but not-so-great Big Ten coach. Mid-major level, he's an ideal fit. But since Dee/Deron and Co. left things gradually went downhill for Weber - he NEVER adjusted his systems to fit his personnel, and it was ultimately reflected in the W/L record. I'm sure he'll get another HC job - probably at the mid-major level - and do well, and we'll move on and hopefully get the right coach for our program.