Blog Entry

Weber is the latest coach to stay too long

Posted on: February 16, 2012 11:46 am
Edited on: February 16, 2012 1:05 pm
In his post-game press conference after Wednesday's loss, Illinois head coach Bruce Weber sounded defeated. (US Presswire)

By Gary Parrish

Bruce Weber should've taken the Oklahoma job last year.

I believed it then.

I believe it more than ever now because the Illinois coach lost for the seventh time in eight games Wednesday night when his Illini fell 67-62 at home to Purdue, and afterward Weber sounded like a man who knows the end is near. He publicly questioned his players. He publicly questioned himself. Privately, he must be second-guessing his decision to pass on various job opportunities the past few years -- most recently Oklahoma last March -- because barring a massive turnaround he'll either be fired or forced to resign within a few days of Illinois' final game this season.

Weber stayed at Illinois too long.

It's a mistake too many coaches make in an era when -- unless you're a surebet Hall of Famer like a Boeheim, a Calhoun, a Pitino, a Self, a Donovan, etc., -- you'd be wise to move every six or seven years. Changing jobs revitalizes you and keeps you from growing content. It also keeps you fresh among your fanbase and ensures you're always one step ahead of the so-called posse.

Leave them before they get tired of you.

Leave them before you start to level out or dip.

Rather than do that, Weber gambled that he'd compete for a Big Ten title in his ninth season and advance deep into the NCAA tournament, and that looks like a bad gamble as he sits tied for seventh in the league with a 5-8 record. But here's the truth: It was always a bad gamble because the Illini fans had already turned on Weber, and once that happens it's nearly impossible to turn them back around. Sure, you can hold them off with temporary success. But once fans stop believing you're the future you're always just one bad season away from a pink slip, and Weber is learning that now.

And it's a tough break for a good man.

Weber is genuinely respected by his peers, and my favorite story to prove this comes from last July when I spent three days on the recruiting trail with Michigan State's Tom Izzo. After a long first day of watching games in Indianapolis, Izzo and I had a private plane set to take us to Akron late on that Wednesday night so that we'd be fresh and ready to go first thing Thursday morning at the LeBron James Skills Academy. Weber did not have a private plane. He instead had a 3:45 a.m. wakeup call that would allow him to grab a commercial flight and take a more inconvenient route to the exact same place we were going, and when Izzo heard this he invited Weber to travel with us. Later, I asked Izzo why he offered a lift to Weber considering the plane was in essence an advantage in a recruiting battle for multiple prospects between Michigan State and Illinois. "I wouldn't do it for anybody," Izzo answered. "But if you lose a kid to Bruce you know it wasn't underhanded. You know he's going to do things the right way."

That's the best compliment a coach could ever give a fellow coach.

But that won't be enough to save Weber's job.

He's had recruiting problems at times and coaching issues at others, but right now, more than anything, he seems to have a problem of disconnect. His players have stopped responding to him. His fans have turned on him. The result is that his Illinois tenure is close to ending, and I can't help but think Weber would've been better off ending it a year ago on his own terms by accepting a seven-year contract worth roughly $17 million from a Big 12 school willing to give him a fresh start and clean slate.

Since: Jan 2, 2007
Posted on: February 17, 2012 7:30 pm

Weber is the latest coach to stay too long

I distinctly remember writing a post a few years back that Bruce Weber should have seen the writing on the wall back then.  Kudos to the Illinois athletic department for letting him stick it out this long.  Few people remember that before he chose Duke, Jon Scheyer was one of, if not the, top player in the state of Illinois and should have never left the state.  Mind you, as a Duke fan I'm not complaining.  But you have to understand the reason I say Scheyer should have never left Illinois.  His head coach in high school was Weber's brother.  If you can't land your brother's best ballplayer, you're not long for the head coaching position at Illinois. 

Since: Aug 10, 2006
Posted on: February 17, 2012 4:25 pm

Weber is the latest coach to stay too long

While I completely agree that Weber's initial success was mainly due to Self's players, and I think it is past due to have Weber exit........wouldn't the same logic hold true prior to that? Self's record the first 2 years at Illinois were due to having Lon Kruger's players. Cook, Bradford, Griffin, Wiiliams, etc...

I am not taking anything away from Self.  He is an excellent coach. But if we say Weber succeeded with Self's players, we have to say that Self also succeeded with Kruger's players.   

Since: Dec 5, 2011
Posted on: February 17, 2012 2:45 pm

Weber is the latest coach to stay too long

I don't watch much Illinois basketball but from what I've seen, I think Weber's mistake was recruiting "athletes" at the expense of recruiting good basketball players.  I know they(coaches like Weber, Izzo) think that this approach will make for great defensive teams, but I find that these type of teams just can't shoot the ball or score...and therefore don't win national championships.  That said, Izzo has clearly struck that balance between athlete and basketball player much better than Weber has.  

Since: Apr 12, 2010
Posted on: February 17, 2012 11:18 am

Weber is the latest coach to stay too long

illini started out this season playing very well so i don't blame this one on weber and that he stayed to long.
he does look at wits end but i think he may need a break from the game and do some espn anaylze during
the season or 2. he may just be burnt out from the last 2 seasons of losing close games with somewhat talented teams.  

Since: Jan 17, 2008
Posted on: February 17, 2012 11:12 am

Weber is the latest coach to stay too long

"Bill Self would be one person to ask about that --he never did win there on a consistant basis; but he does at Kansas.  Why is that?"

Eh, what? Bill Self was at Illinois for three years and was the ONLY Illniois coach in their history to win "consistently":

Year 1: 27-8, Big Ten Champions, Elite Eight
Year 2: 26-9, Big Ten Champions, Sweet Sixteen
Year 3: 25-7, Big Ten 2nd Place, Big Ten Tourney Champions, 2nd Round

It was SELF's players that Bruce Weber had for his first two years at Illinois when he won back-to-back Big Ten titles and went to the Sweet Sixteen and thae national title game. Since Self's players have left, Weber has failed to win a conference title and failed to make it past the second round of the tournament. He is not a good recruiter and he isn't a great coach. Decent, but not great.

Illinois CAN be a great basketball program that regularly contends for the Big Ten confeence title. Just not with Weber as the coach.

Since: Aug 24, 2006
Posted on: February 17, 2012 11:04 am

Weber is the latest coach to stay too long

BTW, Self was 35-13 in the Big Ten in his 3 years. Weber finished first two years in row( with Self's recruits), and he hasn't won since 2004. Weber's Big Ten record is 88-60,which is mediocre at best..

Since: Aug 24, 2006
Posted on: February 17, 2012 10:56 am

Weber is the latest coach to stay too long

uradufuss, your post fits your name. Bill Self's  3 year record at Illinois was 78-24. He won the Big Ten title twice, and finished second once. Illinois went to the NCAA all three years, with one Elite 8, two sweet sixteen finishes, and one second round loss. The team Self recruited, and Weber inherited, ended up in the Final Four the next year. I'm am certain the Illini would LOVE to have Self's " inconsistency"...

Since: Nov 25, 2007
Posted on: February 17, 2012 10:24 am

Illinois is a tough place to coach...

I agree, Gary.  Illinois is a tough place to coach anyhow.  Bill Self would be one person to ask about that --he never did win there on a consistant basis; but he does at Kansas.  Why is that?  You may not want to hear this, but the Big Ten is simply a brutal place to coach anyhow.  You can have alot of talent, and still not win in this conference.  Just ask Tubby Smith.   --Oh sure, at Illinois you may have an in-road to some very good high school recruits, but once you have them then you need to babysit with them, too. 

Since: Feb 17, 2012
Posted on: February 17, 2012 9:32 am

Weber is the latest coach to stay too long

of course you want him to stay. Painter's been beating him like a drum. When we get a REAL coach, it's gonna be different.

Since: Mar 18, 2007
Posted on: February 17, 2012 9:14 am

Weber is the latest coach to stay too long

I seem to recall Bruce Webber taking his team to the 2005 Final Four, and only losing in the final game.

Give him some time with Myers Leonard. He will do well.

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