Column: BAM some other time

By Ryne Nelson

For a long time, I’ve worried about Bruce Weber. I’ve worried as if he was a baby fresh out of the womb. Correction, a baby fresh out the womb with hundreds of people claiming parenthood.

Yeah, he’s only a coach. But Weber was the coach of our national runner-up basketball team. In only two years, he helped the Illini fight to the top, acting like he knew it would happen from the very beginning. People worship Weber for taking two years to accomplish what the University took 100.

Now, he alone dictates the future of Illini basketball.

Honestly, though, how does the man sleep at night knowing the entire University of Illinois could and will praise him like he’s the Jesus Shuttlesworth of coaching?

Isn’t that a little unsettling for a single person to suddenly become the icon of an entire program and named the future of basketball in an entire, united state? In two years alone, Bruce Weber has gone from the Saluki King to BAM (which is much more flattering, as I’ll explain momentarily).

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Ever since someone came up with the crazy idea of designating Jim Carrey’s 2003 comedy character as a worshiping nickname for the eventual 2005 Naismith Coach of the Year, I knew things where getting a little out of hand.

Bruce Almighty. In BAM We Trust. We Pledge Allegiance to the BAM of the U-I-U-C…It’s gotten BAM crazy down in the Champaign area.

Wherever Bruce goes, so do the basketball eyes. If he’s with a recruit, they want to know where he took him to eat. If he’s at the grocers, they want to know if it’s skim or 2 percent. If he’s out with his family, they want to know if he had soup or salad. If he’s at the dentist, did he choose mint or bubble gum mouthwash?

Still there are the few “haters” who say he has yet to win with his own team on the court. So far, who’s been his best recruit….Shaun Pruitt?? Current Kansas head coach Bill Self recruited last season’s team that went 37-2, the haters snarl.

So enough with the bickering, I thought. As a real test of Weber’s popularity at the University of Illinois, I decided to interview the Fighting Illini’s two star players – Dee Brown and James Augustine – and Bruce, of course. Here’s how it went, more or less:

Me: Dee, James, Bruce, ‘sup?

James: I think Coach Weber is life. Let me say that again: BAM equals life.

Dee: Yeah, they should build a 20-, no, 50-foot bronze statue of coach in front of Assembly Hall! At the bottom, it would say, “BAM…forever.” Can’t you picture that, James?

James: Oh yeah…but it’s got to have an orange jacket…He’s the best coach in entire the basketball universe, and university students should forever adore him.

Bruce: Well, um, thanks guys. I never kne-

Dee: He taught me everything I know.

James: If he were to retire now, he would go down as the best coach in Illinois history.

Dee: No, the best in the history of college basketball.

James: Yeah…better than John Wooden!

Whoa! Okay, that interview never happened. It was a farce, especially considering the whole Dee/Bruce NBA draft fiasco. Weber is definitely popular with his players, but a real interview would’ve never been anything like this.

Jesus Christ most definitely would be mentioned.

As a supposed “omniscient” Daily Illini columnist, I’m supposed to see all this and say something’s wrong. I’m supposed to point out caution. My job is to opinionate and pass judgment. And if I don’t offend at least half the university in the process, then I’ve failed.

Point being, I’m not quite a Bruce Almighty believer yet. I’m not ready to certify the Illini as annual Big Ten title contenders just because Bruce Weber’s just that good of a coach.

First he has to show me something. It won’t be next year or maybe even the year after that. Weber has to prove he not only can coach a winning team, but recruit one too.

Once he wins with his own team, then maybe I’ll call him that BAM nickname.

Ryne Nelson is a sophomore in communications. His column appears on Fridays. He can be reached at [email protected].