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Monday, January 21, 2013

Keegan

Opinion: Weber great hire for K-State

Kansas State coach Bruce Weber gestures to players during the second half of a game against Oklahoma State Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, in Manhattan.

Kansas State coach Bruce Weber gestures to players during the second half of a game against Oklahoma State Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, in Manhattan.

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The stench from the cyber stink bomb that exploded when Kansas State athletic director John Currie hired Bruce Weber didn’t deter the school’s ministers of sports propaganda from doing their jobs.

They needed to line up quotes from prominent college basketball names to promote the hire, and they had plenty of places to turn for help.

The first man quoted was an easy choice. Gene Keady, five-time Big Ten coach of the Year when he was at Purdue, was Weber’s chief mentor. A former K-State football player, Keady recommended Weber highly for the job in the wake of his firing by Illinois nine seasons after hiring him.

Keady, now an assistant to former understudy Steve Lavin at St. John’s, called Weber “one of the top five coaches in the nation.”

Michigan State’s Tom Izzo said: “He’s beat me and my team more often than not. I’ve recruited against him and lost, and I’ve recruited against him and won, and (it) hasn’t changed things.”

North Carolina coach Roy Williams, who always will keep one eye trained on college basketball news in the state of Kansas, said: “Bruce is an absolutely fantastic hire for Kansas State. Frank Martin did a great job following Bob Huggins, and I feel that Bruce will do a great job following Frank. They have some very good players there, tremendous enthusiasm and fan support.”

ESPN analyst Jay Bilas, who doesn’t spin when he talks, called Weber “a great hire” and “outstanding basketball coach.”

No point in trying to dispute any of those opinions. An upset against Kansas in Bramlage Coliseum tonight would vault Weber into the driver’s seat for national Coach of the Year honors.

Kansas State enters the game ranked 11th in the nation with a 15-2 record and an eight-game winning streak that coincides with Weber’s shift to a four-guard starting lineup. The coach has come a long way in a short time with the Kansas State fan base.

An exhausted Weber didn’t do himself any favors at his introductory news conference. When reeling off the names of famous former coaches, Weber stumbled through Cotton Fitzsimmons, first calling him “Fitzgerald.” Then he referred to Mr. K-State, Ernie Barrett, as “Ernie Barnett.”

Big deal. All those local references coaches and administrators make when formally saying hello come off as forced anyway. It all comes down to winning. Weber’s start has enabled Currie’s seat, which heated up when it became obvious Martin’s departure at least in part was caused by a poor relationship with his boss, to grow so much cooler.

Already, Weber looks like the perfect hire at the perfect time.

In one monster recruiting season, Bob Huggins brought big-time basketball back to Manhattan. Martin advanced it. And Weber, a better teacher of offensive X’s and O’s than Martin, has a chance to move the program forward.

Especially considering Missouri’s departure from the Big 12, the more progress Kansas State makes in basketball, the better it is for the KU basketball program. As Huggins said during his short stay in Manhattan, a rivalry isn’t truly a rivalry unless both teams win some games. Tough tests, especially in rivalries, strengthen teams.

K-State fans didn’t appreciate how quickly Huggins bolted for his alma mater, West Virginia, but became grateful to him for leaving behind Martin, his top assistant.

Martin’s winning ways, broad shoulders and bug-eyed glare all combined to make him a revered figure with Kansas State’s colorful student section and wealthy alumni alike. Currie couldn’t run the risk of hiring a coach who might be intimidated by the shadow of Martin’s popularity.

Replacing a well-liked coach was nothing new for Weber, who has been dogged for years with criticism over his decision to hold a mock funeral for Illinois predecessor Bill Self in practice during his first year on the job.

“I had been through a similar transition not only at Illinois, but at Southern Illinois and even as a young assistant at Purdue when coach Keady took over after Lee Rose had been to the Final Four,” Weber said Monday.

K-State’s new coach won 10 NCAA Tournament games in a five-year stretch. The first two years of that span came at Southern Illinois, so Weber did it with more than just Self’s recruits. The man can coach. If he can recruit at a high enough level, he’ll be mentioned prominently in discussions as to the second-best coach in the Big 12, and the state’s basketball rivalry will be better for it.

Comments

Brandon Pope 1 year, 2 months ago

Bruce embodies inferiority to Bill Self. Kansas state is inferior to KU. So yes, he seems like the perfect fit to carry that legacy forward.

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nostradavid 1 year, 2 months ago

"An upset against Kansas in Bramlage Coliseum tonight..."

big IF

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Tony Bandle 1 year, 2 months ago

Just two comments about tonight's game..Kansas RPI 3, Kansas State RPI 31.....Kansas vs Kansas State, 183 - 91, the third largest victory total in NCAA history of one school over another!!

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Jim Stauffer 1 year, 2 months ago

No one should decide Self or Weber's future over this game. If Weber wins does that mean he is better than Self? Of course not.

If Weber has shortcomings as a coach they are recruiting and coaching tough defense. As long as he has his old assistant from SIU, he will coach tough D but if that guy every leaves it will be Illinois all over again.

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Steve Quatrocky 1 year, 2 months ago

I hope tomorrow morning all the KSU fans are complaining that he was a bad hire.

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phog1004 1 year, 2 months ago

I didn't even read the article....didn't need to. Already had a response based on just the title of the article.

Opinion: Weber always a great hire for the first 2 years, while playing with other coaches recruits.

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archercc 1 year, 2 months ago

Haith last year and Wbber this year? Since when is going into a program that has had success, inheriting the same players who danced last year and not taking a complete nosedive make you a candidate "coach of the year?"

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Lifelong_Jayhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

With an article like this, Keegs, I think it's safe to say that you are trolling.

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FearlessJayhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

He was a great hire for this year and maybe next, but he will probably go on the same slide he did at Illinois.

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midwest_muser 1 year, 2 months ago

I miss Frank...he was entertaining. Will AW3 or Trav be playing the 5 tonite at times?

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actorman 1 year, 2 months ago

Does anyone have an extra ticket for the home game against KSU on 2/10? If so, please message me.

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actorman 1 year, 2 months ago

When will he be holding the funeral for Frank Martin, and will anyone here be attending?

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Ferd Magellan 1 year, 2 months ago

Don't care, he's still a P.O.S. Martin made it difficult to hate KSU, but Brucie is easy to loathe.

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jayhawks1009 1 year, 2 months ago

When you win at Illinois, you get the Kansas job. When you lose at Illinois, you get the Kansas State job.

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DanR 1 year, 2 months ago

Bruce Weber... nice guy, but just another branch of dead wood from the Gene Keady coaching tree. (Illinois should have known better)

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namohcan_99 1 year, 2 months ago

Bruce Weber is a loser. He looked pretty good at Illinois the first season or two with Bill's kids. Same thing goes here with Martin's kids. Once those seniors graduate this year, Weber is going to be that loser again. His best work was in the mid-majors and worked well at Southern Illinois. But that's a much less competitive conference than the Big XII. Frank Martin was a great hire for K-State and they really lost out when they lost him.

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riverdrifter 1 year, 2 months ago

EJ must not go 1-11 from the field with 2 assists if KU is to win.

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pizzashuttle 1 year, 2 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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jhox 1 year, 2 months ago

He underachieved recruiting with some of the best talent in the country in his own back yard (Chicago) so what chance does he have recruiting to Manhattan? It was an OK short term hire but a horrible long term hire. He's good at X's and O's but once Martins players are gone, he'll soon be gone.

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jayhawkinATL 1 year, 2 months ago

I agree with what some have already posted...the game is close ONLY if KU allows KSU to dictate the pace and make it an ugly game.

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stm62 1 year, 2 months ago

I like the basketball "rivalry" just fine the way it is. It's so SWEET to beat the purple kitties because they HATE us so much. I remember a time, decades ago during the Owens-Hartman era, that this was a true b-ball rivalry. I did not like it near as much.

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Geezer 1 year, 2 months ago

KU hires coaches that succeed at Illinois. KSU hires coaches that fail at Illinois.

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Janet Scott 1 year, 2 months ago

If KU plays well tomorrow, they will kick butt in Buffalo Chip arena, where the half time shows feature dancing nude cows and steam-powered tractors pulling fully loaded manure spreaders around the perimeter of the court, while ag graduate students stand on their heads at center court mimicking the sounds of crazed pigs.

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Steve Gantz 1 year, 2 months ago

I told this story over on another thread, but it's worth repeating.

Webers brother was the high school coach of John Scheyer who starred at Duke for four years. He was an awesome high school player and recruited by everyone including Weber. Weber couldn't get a kid to come to Illinois even when his brother was his HS coach. Does that tell you something about Weber?

A lot of talent left the state while Weber coached there, including of course Sherron Collins. Players in Illinois didn't want to play for him. Self of course recuited NBA talent to that school, Deron WIlliams, Luther Head most notably. But once those guys left, it was slim pickins!

My impression of Weber, and I've followed the Illini for 3 decades, is that he was a nice guy, but really struggled with inspiring his players to go all out for the U. I thought he was a great hire by virtue of his success at SIU, but several seasons of unispiring play later I have little doubt that KState made a mistake.

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iamakufan 1 year, 2 months ago

" If he can recruit at a high enough level." That's the key. He has not proven his ability to recruit enough top recruits. So far, at Illinois he did well until he ran out of Self's recruits. So far, at KSU he's doing well with Martin's recruits. Only time will tell whether he can recruit well enough to maintain success at K-State. X's and O's are important but if the recruiting doesn't match it, then the result is failure. Again. He did, after all, get fired from his last job because of failing to maintain the performance standard set by his predecessor. For K-State's sake, and that of the Big12, I hope he proves me wrong and does well. But doubts will linger here for a few years, at least.

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jaybate 1 year, 2 months ago

Weber built down Illinois.

Building down does not usually make a desirable candidate.

Would KU have hired Self if he had built down Illinois?

Would Illinois have hired Self had he built down Tulsa?

KSU apparently likes hiring troubled coaches. They hired Huggins on the rebound from a melt down at UCinn. Now they have hired Weber after a conflicted end at Illinois.

There is no doubt such men know how to coach. The problem is their personalities appear not conducive appear to building up a program. Huggins did well with Behlein's material for few years at WVU, but he is building them down now. Weber seems likely to repeat his Illini experience at KSU--a harder place to recruit to.

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jhkprd 1 year, 2 months ago

jhawkrulz, who is "Wiggins?" I know you meant Huggins, but how can we forget Huggy Bear? Illinois fans have always reminded me of Misery fans, with illusions that that somehow they are elite and should get the best coaches and battle for the league and national titles. They were fortunate to get BS on his way up, and Weber did a pretty good job for them for several years. IMO, Weber is the type of coach that fits well with KState, smart, steady, and understated, not an overly-emotional hot dog who will always look for the bigger stage. Don't be surprised when KState hold serve against us, if not this year, in the next two or three.

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William Blake 1 year, 2 months ago

Sorry, but I miss Frank Martin.

I felt like we were so close to experiencing Frank's head explode on national tv (more than once).

It's hard to match Frank's personality, so Bruce is like the velveeta of fine cheeses.

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Geezer 1 year, 2 months ago

Weber is an idiot. Listen to what the ILLinois fanbase has to say about him after suffering through 9 seasons of that crap.

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KJD 1 year, 2 months ago

Great read. A ton of good info and perspective.

My K-State/Big XII buddy will enjoy this–except for the second best coach part ;-) I know my buddy is steadily simmering up for the big game tomorrow, which usually starts off as quiet confidence or hope to play well and by game time he wants to see KU be broken, destroyed, thrashed. Then a few days later, win or lose, football or basketball, he settles down.

My buddy seemed so relieved about the Weber hire when they beat Florida which was an important win to kick off Weber's coaching tenure. He had mixed feelings about the hire due to the mixed track record at Illinois. A bunch of these comments stem from that period and I have got to think Weber only grew and matured even more as a head basketball coach to help him in his new tenure. Beating the Gators had to be a confidence builder for the team and that colorful student section. They do create a fantastic environment when we visit. It's always sweet to win there.

The fact that Weber and his crew got this team to switch over to a whole new set of offensive principles in their first year to create this matchup between two teams undefeated in conference, one ranked #11/13 and the other #3/2, is just another compliment to the coaching ability.

It's on the defensive end that I'm very curious about for the remainder of the season and well into the future. Great coaches like we've had here at KU coach it up on both ends of the court. Weber had to be grateful for the basketball culture that Martin established on the Defensive end. On Weber's bench he is reunited with Chris Lowery.

I will always remember Chris Lowery as the coach who put that Defensive juggernaut together at Southern Illinois in 2006-2007. That team knew how to play D for 40 minutes. The Saluki's relentlessly attacked us in the Sweet 16 on the Defensive end, just like Martin's teams would at K-State.

To digress a little bit, but not much, is to think about how huge it is to win a Sweet 16 game. I thought KU looked a bit sluggish against UCLA in the 2007 Elite Eight and, from my perspective, I always have given the credit for that to Lowery's crew. That 2007 KU team showed their mettle and won that Sweet 16 game. They absolutely had to pour all of their effort to survive that game which could have gone either way. I still think that winning that Sweet 16 game in 2007 helped build the mettle of that 2008 team to go all the way. To win that Final Four in 2008 took a lot of toughness, it was loaded with four outstanding 1 seeds. It's the same way I think of that 2001 KU team that played Self's Illinois team in the Sweet 16 which had the Jayhawk's ready for Self and Illinois in 2002 in the Sweet 16.

I'm totally with Keegan on this one. K-State is going to be really good under Weber and company. K-State fans might have had to ease into it, though they are feeling real good right now and this years team has lot's of upside. They match up with KU really well.

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Steve Jacob 1 year, 2 months ago

Weber is a great coach, with someone elses players. He was a bad recruiter at Illinois.

And "In one monster recruiting season, Bob Huggins brought big-time basketball back to Manhattan" was funny, because Michael Beasley was sent to KSU by an agent, and paid all the rent and car payment for him and his mom. Beasley said this in court records, so I have no idea why KSU is not under investigation.

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Michael Leiker 1 year, 2 months ago

Agree completely with how important it is for KU to have KSU competitive. Thanks for making this point.

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Ralster Jayhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

The only way this game is close, is if KU plays like crap. Man, look, you cant tell me that Weber's "system" is better than Self's. Weber has not beat Self in multiple tries. So Weber returns 7 guys...well, KU's lineup goes 8 deep, maybe 9 if you add AW3 in some small-4 role. So it will come down to KU's execution. Heck, with what TX (#2 defense in the nation) did, and what TxTech did to muddy-up the game, this particular KU team is learning to win ugly. And learning that never-say-die attitude of coming from behind to win. Makes it that much harder for Purple. Oh, and Bill Self lives to disrupt the opponent's offensive schemes, so I seriously doubt KHaters will be able to pull-off that proverbial 'perfect game' to beat KU. Guard McGruder, I'm sure scout tape shows he is the lynchpin to their whole attack. In a pretty game, bet on KU. In a junkyard dogfight, bet on Bill Self. Word-associate Weber with "funeral"--I hope KStutter players are wearing their black uni's...

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Brianna Zaleski 1 year, 2 months ago

I hope that BW does turn out to be a good hire. The worry I have with him is recruiting. He can obviously coach (he took Self's recruits to the NC game and now has Frank Martins recruits playing well) I just wonder if he can bring in big time DI talent

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Boouk 1 year, 2 months ago

It was easy to predict that KSU would have a smooth transition from Martin to Weber. If Weber recruits well, KSU will be good for as long as he's there.

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Sandeep Kalburgie 1 year, 2 months ago

FYI - The game's not tonight. Its tomorrow!!

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jhawkrulz 1 year, 2 months ago

First, caught off guard with that tonight reference...we play on Tuesday.

Second, Weber is a good fit for K-State, but the 4-guard is a gimmick when you are underskilled and are trying to create match-up issues. It works a lot because not a lot of teams are used to playing that style. You have to have guards with length and agile feet from your 3-4 positions. KU should actually do pretty good with this, or send NT out there and bench Young...seemed to work last game.

Three, longterm K-State might continue to struggle, it just seems like a tough place to get recruits and the small amount of success wasn't as deep as some people would have hoped.

Finally, Wiggins did a lot for K-State, and Martin road those coattails for a while. He was smart to leave when he did, he would have had a poor year this year.

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