Tag Archives: Bruce Weber K-State

Optimism is the Best Policy

2 Apr

Google "Kansas State basketball," and you will see the front page of the website dedicated to new coach Bruce Weber.

“Give me a chance.”

With that statement, Bruce Weber dared Kansas State fans to have some faith.

Weber began his coaching career back in 1979, so he has extensive experience in the business. In 2003 he had the difficult distinction of being Bill Self’s replacement, so this move to Kansas State will not be the first time Weber walks into a situation where many fans really wish the last coach was still there.

Widespread disappointment about the departure of Frank Martin is ironic in a sense, considering many fans were rather unhappy when the Wildcats made a head coach of the unproven coach five years ago.

If anything, Martin’s success should be a reason for fans to support Weber, at least until he gives them a reason to do otherwise. Another example of unexpected success has to be Frank Haith at Missouri; many were skeptical of him, and the Tigers went on to win the Big 12 tournament.

I understand being upset when a team is not winning, but no games have been played yet with Weber at the helm, so he should have a window of several months before any legitimate complaining by fans can occur.

Certainly it is a possible that Weber will be a flop. Maybe players will leave. Maybe he will not be able to recruit. Maybe the team will lose a dozen games or more.

On the other hand, maybe Weber will be a breath of fresh air after Martin. I will not say one is better than the other; I do not know either well enough to make any declarations on that. What is clear is that the two of them have vastly different styles. Their personalities are different. Maybe Weber’s personality facilitates better interaction and communication between coaches and players this season. Maybe that change translates into more wins than anyone would expect.

All I am saying is this: “I told you so!” is much more fun when the outcome you guessed was positive rather than negative.

Before last football season, I predicted eight wins. Obviously I undershot; the Wildcats won 10 games and went to the Cotton Bowl. However, other media members and fans were saying that seven wins would be optimistic; six would be realistic; and eight, well, that was the stuff of dreams. See how that season turned out? It was beyond the stuff of dreams, and it was pretty darn incredible.

***

Negativity is more interesting. It is more sensational. It draws more hits for a website, more views for a video. It sells.

What do you gain by being negative?

What do you lose by being positive?

Which sounds like the better choice to you?

Advertisements

Bruce Weber: History, Reactions, Updates, Etc.

2 Apr

About a dozen students gathered on the lawn of Bramlage Coliseum on Saturday afternoon to protest Kansas State’s hiring of Bruce Weber as the next head basketball coach.

One student held a sign that read, “Why you do hate us John Currie?”

Others sported purple headbands inscribed, “Gott Lieb?” – an endorsement of ESPN analyst Doug Gottlieb as a candidate and a play on the popular “Got Milk?” advertising campaign. Gottlieb, a former Oklahoma State basketball player, expressed interest in the head coaching position to newspapers and radio stations, and even though he has no coaching experience, his thorough plan and salesmanship intrigued fans.

Not shockingly, the administration hired someone with more of a history: Weber, a smiling, gray-haired gentleman many remember for taking Illinois to the national championship in 2005 but whose most recent team finished with just six wins in the Big 10 this season. Which type of results will Weber produce for the Wildcats is an intriguing question.

***

The initial response from fans has not been particularly optimistic, but few people could have replaced as popular and successful a coach as Frank Martin – and most of those coaches show no signs of being available for hire.

Weber is not daunted, however. His priority is winning over the players. He spoke with both 1350AM in Manhattan and 810 WHB in Kansas City about building relationships with one set of people whose opinions matter most.

“The big key is that I get them to trust me and respect me and buy into it,” Weber said. “If you can get your best player to buy in and be your best leader and hardest worker, it makes it so much easier for you as a coach.”

After talking to next year’s seniors Rodney McGruder and Jordan Henriquez, Weber also had conversations with this season’s freshmen. He noted the importance of Angel Rodriguez, who played point guard for Kansas State much of last season. With such conversations, the coach said he makes his pitch but does not press for a commitment.

“I don’t bring it up, to be honest,” Weber said. “I just say, ‘This is what we’re about. We want you here.’”

At this point, he believes all the players will stay. He has done individual workouts with everyone except McGruder and Rodriguez, who will be unable to practice for two to three weeks because of injuries. Because getting to know players is one of Weber’s top priorities, changing public perception is on the back burner.

“I realize I can’t win all the fans over,” Weber said. “I have to do it with a good product, and that starts with the players. That’s the most important thing.”

Asked about previous problems within the program under Martin, Weber responded with the proper amount of ambiguity and proceeded to compliment his predecessor.

“He did them his way – sometimes it isn’t always the most positive thing,” he said. “He created a culture of toughness and defense, and hopefully we can play off that.”

***

The other priority of Weber in this time is putting together a coaching staff. Weber said he invited Martin’s associate head coach Brad Underwood to stay at Kansas State as part of the new staff, but Underwood told him Saturday morning that he thought he would be going with Martin to South Carolina. Weber said Underwood gave him insight regarding the program and the players, and Weber left the door open in case Underwood had a change of heart.

Weber has said he is working to finalize a deal with Chris Lowery, who coached under Weber at Southern Illinois and followed him to Illinois before returning to become the head coach for Southern Illinois, where he led the program for eight seasons before being fired after the Salukis went 8-23 in 2011-12.

***

Weber has been in the business for 33 years. His first gig as an assistant, at Western Kentucky, came in 1979-80. For the next 18 seasons he worked as an assistant at Purdue.

In Weber’s first year as a head coach at Southern Illinois, the team went 15-12 and tied for a fifth-place conference finish. In his fifth and final season there, Weber guided the team to a 24-7 record and first-place finish in its league.

Replacing Bill Self at Illinois, Weber coached nine seasons there. In seven of those, the team won at least 20 games.

The Fighting Illini struggled in 2011-2012, going 17-15 and 6-12 in league play to finish tied for ninth in the conference. Weber cited the team’s youth (six freshman, one returning starter) as well as changes in the administration (new university president, new athletic director) as potential reasons for the season that was his second-worst in nine years at Illinois and resulted in the termination of his contract there.

“It’s a humbling experience,” Weber said. “You learn a lot about yourself, and you learn a lot about who your friends are. So many people have reached out to myself and my wife … and just said how much they appreciate and respect and believe in what [we’ve] done.”

As for what he learned from his time at Illinois – and presumably this last season in particular – Weber said that trying to please everybody is impossible, so there is only one manner in which to proceed.

“Do it your way,” Weber said. “And that’s what we’ll try to do.”

Players, Weber look forward to getting in the gym together

31 Mar

Martavious Irving is not particularly worried about those who criticize the hire of Bruce Weber as Kansas State’s new head basketball coach. The senior-to-be is just waiting for the season.

“Once we start winning, I don’t think it’ll be a problem anymore,” Irving said.

Illinois, where Weber coached from 2003 to 2012, finished ninth in the Big 10 conference last season and ended the year on a 2-12 slide. Weber attributed the struggles there to a young team – “six freshman and one returning starter” – and the disheartening effect of one close loss after another.

Point guard Will Spradling seems to be buying into the coach’s potential.

“He’s got four championships; he’s got two Big 10 championships and two Missouri Valley championships … he’s a winner,” Spradling said. “Last year he might have just had a rough year. Everybody kind of has those years. I’m excited to have him as a coach.”

As is obvious from those comments, Spradling will not be transferring, as some reports had previously indicated. While it sounds like he considered leaving, and although he said “it helped a little bit” that Frank Martin is no longer the coach, Spradling said he thought he would have stayed at Kansas State regardless.

“I needed to just think about the season and about what I needed to do to improve, but I never really felt like I wanted to leave Manhattan at all,” Spradling said. “I love K-State. This is where I want to be.”

Like Irving, Jordan Henriquez will be sticking around for his senior year. By his account, Weber made a positive first impression.

“Just by him speaking to us, speaking to me, I know he’s a great guy,” Henriquez said. “Just watching him as I was growing up, a Final Four team, I know he’s a great coach.”

Players will work out with the new coach for the first time on Monday. Weber said he looks forward to getting to know the players and see how he can help them improve. How those initial interactions play out will likely determine how many players stay and how many will go.

“First thing, I met with them as a team and tomorrow I will meet with them as individuals and we will get on the court on Monday,” Weber said. “Slowly but surely the way to develop a relationship is one-on-one. You communicate and talk with them to show them that you care … and get to know them as a player and as a student.”

Building trust is important for Weber, but he hopes to have at least one staff member who already has the players’ trust. He said he wanted to retain at least one current Kansas State assistant coach who knows the lay of the land and has existing relationships with players.

“I have done that before when I went to Southern Illinois; I kept the Rodney Watson. When I went to Illinois I kept Wayne McClain,” Weber said. “They stayed the whole time while I was there and both are great friends and people that have become very good coaches. I think that is a possibility, and hopefully I have a chance to sit down with them whether it is Brad (Underwood) or any other former players.”

In the meantime, the players appreciate the speed with which the administration conducted and completed the coaching search.

“It’s better than sitting around for a bunch of weeks where we’re not doing anything,” Spradling said. “It’s nice to know that we get to go into the gym and work out with the coach on Monday instead of going out and working out on our own because it’s not the same.”