Wednesday, November 28, 2007

How Much Longer Will Weber Last?

I'm a big fan of Bruce Weber. I got to cover his last season while he was at SIU before moving 180 miles north of Carbondale to Champaign-Urbana. The guy was very accomdating, funny, and always gave well thought out soundbites. Unlike Chris Lowery, he understood that some of the clowns that work in the College media will never materialize, or are not polished at that moment (me being one of them as a freshmen) but he always works with you, and appreciated you were trying. When he left to go to Illinois, I was happy for him. He deserved it considering what he accomplished at So Ill, and the program would not be where it is now if it were not for him. However, as he deserved his praise for turning around a non-existant Saluki program since back in the day when Clyde Frazier took them to the NIT Championship; he also deserves criticism. Let's face it: that great 04-05' team that came up just short was all Bill Self's recruiting. As the Illini lost for the second time this year last night to Maryland 69-61, it seems apparent that Bruce could be on the hot seat if Illinois doesn't do well this year, and the only direction he can point to is back at himself.

It must have been reassuring to Bruce that his brother; the head coach of the Glenbrook North Boys Basketball team, happened to have one of the best seniors in the country, not to mention the 2006 Illinois Mr. Basketball award winner, given to the best player of the year. What's not so reassuring? When he signs his letter of intent to play for Duke. How do you fuck that up? You + your brother can't convince him to play at Illinois, having won 112 games since 2003, which ties them with Duke and Florida for the most in D-1 Men's College Basketball. Now add in the fact of many others who opted out of the orange and blue; most namely Derrick Rose (Memphis), Eric Gordon (Indiana) and plenty of other Chicago/downstate products. What does Weber have to show for his in-state recruits? Next to nothing. And how about outside of the Land of Lincoln? Where's the ability to recruit in the Midwest?

The opposite is what shows up for Ron Zook. He got landed Benn, a D.C. product; he landed Martez Wilson, a D-end highly touted from Simeon in Chicago, rated 6th on in his senior year. It's funny to think how different these two coaches' career paths have traveled. Zook took over a national program in Florida (high point), didn't live up to the expectations he inherited and was fired (low point), took over an Illini football program that hadn't been prominent since 2001, and now has them possibly BCS bound again (high point). Weber, a long time assitant to Gene Keady finally got his first break at a non existant SIU program (high point for him, not so much for many). He lead them to their first sweet sixteen in 25 years, which lead to the Illinois job, and took them to the National Championship (definitely high point despite the outcome). Now, he can't recruit the blue chip players to come to Chambana, and the Illini program is getting nowhere fast, as evidenced by their first round exit at the hands of Virginia Tech last year in the NCAA Tournament (low point, and an added blow that his previous team kicked their ass in the next round).

The Illini basketball program has proven on paper to be in the upper echleon of College Basketball thus far in the 21st century. It should be a place where High School seniors opt to go; not having to be schmoozed. Yet Bruce will not schmooze; he will tell you he'd like you come to Illinois, but he's going to beat your ass into the hardwood with drills. You think O.J. Mayo would say, boy that sounds swell! Fuck no. Blue chip recruits want to be treated that way as superstars. They've already had a good portion of the public be able to recite their name to this point, why should they have to work as hard as some gym rat from Decatur? Hence, the fallout has begun for Bruce Weber. What makes Zook different from Weber? My take is the opportunity to start immediately, because his expectations are completely different. Bruce is expected to win constantly. Zook has plenty of leeway, and in turn, he can tell blue chips they'll start instantly, which is music to their ears. Who cares how the football team finishes? Everyone expects the Illini football team to suck. With expectations come come consequences. Zook has overperformed, and from the looks of things in the future, Weber has underachieved. Good luck Coach Weber. The odds for turnaround are against you.


Your Humble Correspondent said...

I hope all the Illini fans whining about losing Eric Gordon noticed that a football recruit blew off an oral committement from Iowa to come to Illinois.

Unless and until they condemn this, they have to shut their mouths about Gordon.

Greg said...

While the 04-05 team was Self recruits it never would have made the National Championship without the style and coaching BWeb brought to the Illini.

BWeb has shown time and time again that he is more interested in recruiting players who will build a team and stay for at least 3 years, and not some hotshot freshman who will bounce after 1 year.

He's a character guy in a not so character business. And in the end it will probably cost him his job. I'm surprised he's stayed this long consider all the crap he has to put up with. Illinois is a great basketball school, but we aren't Duke or North Carolina. Illinois is tournament good just about every year, but to expect Elite 8 good every year isn't realistic.

Anonymous said...

Last I checked, football and basketball were two different sports with two different recruiting atmospheres. Football players verbal to one school and continue to make visits to other schools and talk to other coaches all the time. Basketball doesn't work that way for whatever reason. Two different sets of ground rules, and you play by the rules of the sport you are in. Changing the rules is the NCAA's job.

Noce said...

i remember the days when the basketball team was treated like royalty around campus...never waited in line for bars or paid for drinks, got free rides from kids just willing to hang out with them, and still they acted like classy kids (ok besides luther head but he was still cool in my book). the fucks now on the team are driving drunk, acting like they're the shit still even though they suck and struggle to shoot 40% every night. you know your team is bad when calvin fucking brock and trent meacham are your best scorers. fire weber, bring in anyone w/ any kind of good recruiting track record or ties to chicago. then hire dee brown as an assistant.

D-Town Chris said...

Nice to see my home town of Decatur get mentioned...that being said...Look at the recruits coming in the next couple years for Weber. God forbid he has a year where he doesn't win 20 games, which he still might, but they will continue to be solid for years to come. And that's fine that Eric Gordon backed out. Having to live in Indiana for a year is punishment enough.

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