Posted on: March 9, 2012 9:44 am
Edited on: March 9, 2012 10:10 am
By Gary Parrish and Jeff Goodman
Illinois informed Bruce Weber early Friday that he will not continue to coach its men's basketball program, a source confirmed to CBSSports.com.
The news was first reported by the Champaign News-Gazette's Paul Klee.
Weber had a record of 210-101 while at Illinois. He made the championship game of the NCAA tournament in 2005 but failed to get the Illini to the NCAA tournament in two of his final three seasons. The Illini were 17-15 overall, 6-12 in the Big Ten this season. They lost to Iowa in Thursday's first round of the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis.
VCU's Shaka Smart is expected to top Illinois' wish-list of candidates.
Duke assistant Chris Collins, an Illinois native, could also be a possibility.
Weber probably won't be out of coaching long unless he chooses to be. Sources have told CBSSports.com that he'll likely be a target to replace Chris Lowery at Southern Illinois. Weber coached SIU for five seasons before replacing Bill Self at Illinois in 2003.
Posted on: February 16, 2012 11:46 am
Edited on: February 16, 2012 1:05 pm
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.
Posted on: January 12, 2012 3:15 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2012 3:23 pm
By Jeff Goodman
Bruce Weber's Illinois team was a question mark for many this season.
Some figured losing veterans Demetri McCamey, Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale - - despite their production over the course of their careers -- would force the Illini to take a step back. Others felt it could be addition by subtraction since that group had underachieved, going to a pair of NCAA tournaments, one NIT and even failing to advance to the postseason in one of the four seasons on campus.
Troubled, yet talented freshman Jereme Richmond was also gone -- which clearly appeared to help the chemistry of the team.
Weber was left with a core group consisting of ultra-talented 7-footer Meyers Leonard and a bunch of solid, yet not spectacular perimeter guys that included Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson. Weber's expectation was that Paul would quickly emerge as the team's go-to guy. but it didn't happen. In fact, Paul struggled for much of the season -- until his spectacular 43-point outburst on Tuesday night in a win over Ohio State.
"I've seen some great performances, when Glen Robinson went for 49 and when Scott Skiles had 40-something against us when I was at Purdue," Weber said. "This one was right there. It was pretty special -- and the crazy thing is he did it on just 15 shots."
Now the key for Weber will be if Paul and Leonard -- who has also been erratic this season -- can establish a level of consistency the rest of the Big Ten slate. Can they sustain it?
Weber is optimistic that starting point guard Sam Maniscalso will return to practice this weekend and return on Jan. 19 at Penn State, but said he'll likely keep freshman Tracy Abrams in the stating lineup for the time being.
Illinois improved to 15-3 with a trio of respectable losses: against UNLV in Chicago, against Missouri in Saint Louis and on the road to Purdue. The Illini now have two resume wins: against Ohio State and Gonzaga at Assembly Hall.
Now the key will be whether Paul can use his most recent performance to kick-start the rest of the season -- and whether Leonard can avoid the ups and downs that have plagued him much of this season.
Posted on: July 7, 2011 6:45 am
Edited on: February 16, 2012 11:45 am
By Gary Parrish
AKRON, Ohio -- And the star of the night session at the Adidas Invitational was ... Z-Bo, of course.
"Mr. Randolph, I am from Canada and I don't get to be around people like you often," said a high school prospect who approached Zach Randolph at a gym late Wednesday. "Can I take a picture with you?"
"Sure," Randolph answered.
And what followed was a stream of high school prospects anxious to meet the Memphis Grizzlies star who had stopped by a high school in suburban Indianapolis -- which is near Randolph's offseason home -- to visit with his college coach, Michigan State's Tom Izzo. I can't promise you the prospects on the floor noticed Randolph's presence, but I can tell you everybody else in the buidling did, and Randolph would've been overwhelmed for hours if tournament officials hadn't stepped in and demanded the autograph seekers get out of the "coaches area" of the gym. Either way, it was a neat reunion between player and coach -- one of the highlights of my first full day on the road with Izzo as this July evaluation period continues.
If you're keeping track, I think Izzo and I watched nine games in seven gyms on Wednesday. We met in the lobby of our Indianapolis hotel at 7:30 a.m. Our first game was at 8:15 a.m. Our final game ended around 10:15 p.m. We boarded a private plane around 10:50 p.m. We landed here in Akron a little before midnight. We checked into this downtown hotel around 12:30 a.m.
So that's a 17-hour day, and it was draining. But the truth is that Izzo and I were the lucky ones beacause we had access to a private plane that at least allowed us to get from the Adidas Invitational in Indianapolis to the LeBron James Skills Academy in Akron late last night. Most coaches making the same trip were also in a gym until around 10:15. They couldn't have gotten back into their rooms until around 11, couldn't have fallen asleep until around midnight. And yet they still had wakeup calls for around 3:45 a.m. because the only commercial flight leaving Indianapolis that could get coaches to Akron by the start of today's workouts was scheduled to leave at 5:24 a.m.
That's the flight Illinois coach Bruce Weber was supposed to be on this morning, by the way. But don't ever say Big Ten coaches don't take care of each other, because Izzo invited Weber to fly privately with us rather than put himself through that ridiculousness. That both men were on the redeye from Las Vegas to Orlando with Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser the day before Prosser died four years in the middle of a grueling schedule probably should be noted.
"Thanks for letting me go with you," Weber said as we touched down in Akron.
"No problem," Izzo said. "No problem."
For more of our college basketball recruiting road trip, click here.
Posted on: February 9, 2011 11:22 am
Posted by Eric Angevine
In the Big Ten, talent is not enough. A look at Michigan State, a team that is falling hard despite a talented and experienced roster, will give you anecdotal evidence of that fact.
In a similar vein, the Illinois Fighting Illini have plenty of talent. Bruce Weber's team is currently fourth in the league race, but it's a highly dubious fourth. At 5-5 in conference play, it's tough for fans to get overly excited about the standings. A once-impressive win over Michigan State loses value every day, and losses to Penn State, Indiana and Northwestern have cast serious doubts on this team's ability to enter postseason play at all, let alone on a high note.
And they have the talent to do better. Demetri McCamey has an NBA-worthy skill set, but his recent play has been erratic. More baffling is the performance of the Illinois bigs. Mike Davis, Mike Tisdale and Jereme Richmond present a rather formidable-looking frontcourt, but all three were held to single digits in scoring and rebounding by the much-maligned Northwestern bigs in Saturday's 71-70 loss.
So what's missing? Coach isn't shy about saying it. It's grit, he told Paul Klee of IlliniHQ.com.
"When you're looking for the future, you've got to find (a guy) that maybe doesn't have quite as much talent but he has that toughness and leadership that makes a difference. If you find the special guy that is talented and has the toughness and the leadership - whether it's Deron or Dee, or (Jared) Sullinger or (David) Lighty - that's when you really have the special teams."So, he knows this team has had it in the past, and he acknowledges that his opponents have more of it right now than he does. So where's the silver lining for current Illini fans?
"I think this next group, Tracy (Abrams), that's what he's about. He's got a little bit of an edge, the toughness. Nnanna (Egwu), he plays his butt off. He loves to play," Weber said. "I even think with our guys now. Jereme (Richmond) has great competitive spirit. I think Meyers (Leonard) does. He's just got to control his emotions a little bit. I think Crandall (Head) really does. I feel good about all those guys, and the incoming group also."
Hmmm. That sounds an awful lot like "Wait 'til next year", which is not a popular phrase in the state of Illinois. A 5-5 record is a tipping point. Bruce Weber's team is sitting right on the fulcrum, and something or someone is going to tip the beam over the next few weeks. The question is, which way will it fall? Thursday's road date with a sinking Minnesota program will give us some indication as to whether Weber has found the right buttons to push. Sunrday's home game with 8-3 Purdue will be a Herculean task, but could still show some promise.
The problem is, the Boilermakers knew where their toughness was going to come from in November of last year. Heck, maybe even in July. At Purdue, toughness is a program mandate under Matt Painter, and I'd be surprised to ever hear the head Boilermaker sending out a public search party looking for his team's heart.
If the tenacity Bruce Weber seeks is there, hidden somewhere he can't find it, dissatisfaction in Champaign is going to reach an all-time high.