Well, he’s sure a lot different than Frank Martin.
And if that’s what Kansas State athletic director John Currie was going for in picking former Illinois
coach Bruce Weber to replace Martin as the Wildcats’ men’s basketball coach, then he knocked this one out of the park. K-State is holding a 3 p.m. news conference today to announce the hiring.
Otherwise, this hire strikes me as a weak grounder to second base.
First and foremost, why the rush? And why is K-State announcing the Weber hire on the day of the national semifinals in the NCAA Tournament? Talk about being relegated to the back page.
Just four days after Martin accepted the South Carolina job, Currie pulls Weber out of his hat? It’s hard to fathom. Reportedly, the College of Charleston was trying to lure Weber. Southern Illinois, where Weber coached for five years before going to Illinois in 2003, had some interest in bringing Weber back, but nothing materialized.
Remember, Weber lost his team this season at Illinois. The Illini looked like an NCAA Tournament lock early, then went 2-12 to end the season. Weber was canned and Illinois is still looking for his replacement.
Weber is a good guy. He won’t scowl at his players or cause little old ladies at Bramlage Coliseum to pray to the heavens, the way Martin did. He fits the mold for the coach many of us expected Currie to hire. I just didn’t expect it to be Weber, who outside of his first three seasons Illinois – during which he coached a lot of Bill Self’s former players – didn’t do a whole lot.
In those first three seasons, Weber led Illinois to an 89-16 record and was 39-9 in the Big Ten. The Illini reached the national championship game in 2005 and won eight NCAA Tournament games overall.
But in the past six seasons, Weber and Illinois were 121-85 overall, 50-56 in the Big Ten and captured just one NCAA Tournament victory.
It’s fair to say that after the Self influence departed the Illinois program, Weber was unable to do a whole lot. And now he’s the guy Kansas State expects to stand toe to toe with Self and his Kansas program in the Big 12?
Yeah, good luck with that.
I can’t fathom why Currie was so quick to pull the trigger here. How much did he shop the Kansas State job around? It’s a great job and surely could have attracted a nice list of top candidates. In talking to reporters here at the Final Four in New Orleans over the past couple of days, I had become a big believer in Kentucky assistant Orlando Antigua, one of the country’s top recruiters and brightest up-and-comers.
Antigua, I can assure you, was never contacted by Currie and Kansas State. Outside of Weber, who was? There wasn’t time to contact many coaches. It will be interesting to hear Currie explain the process that was used to determine Weber was the best fit for the K-State job.
Weber, 55, did spend 19 years as an assistant to Larned native Gene Keady, first at Western Kentucky for one season and at Purdue for the next 18. Keady played at Kansas State from 1954-58 and is currently working on Steve Lavin’s staff at St. John’s.
Did Keady push hard for Weber? I guess we’ll find out today.
But even if he did, didn’t Currie owe it to Kansas State fans, the athletic department and the basketball program to turn over more stones before picking a coach?
There was a lot of furor Friday over the possibility of ESPN basketball commentator and former Oklahoma State player Doug Gottlieb perhaps emerging as a candidate at Kansas State. That was a ridiculous notion, but at least it got some Wildcats fans excited.
I don’t imagine the hiring of Weber is having the same effect.
This is a decision that, in the long term, will help define Currie’s reputation. Who knows, perhaps it will turn out to be a brilliant hire.
In the short term, though, it looks like an over-eager athletic director has stepped out onto a shaky limb.