True Weber reveals self to Illini fans

By Lucas Deal

Two years ago, Illinois was the toast of college basketball. They won 37 games, had a team full of media-friendly stars and an up-and-coming coach who could lead a team of IMPE scrubs to 20 wins.

Well, those two years have passed and Illini fans are finally starting to discover that the Bruce Weber they hired in 2003 might not be the same guy they thought they had in 2005.

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See, when the Illini were running roughshod over the Midwest in ’05 the only thing Illini fans wanted to talk about was how fantastic their new head coach was. They admired how honest and fair he was, but it was his flawless record and what they perceived as a “win at any” cost style they fell in love with.

Illini fans thought they’d finally found the guy they could rely on to make the big moves, sign blue-chippers, win Final Fours and do it regularly. He had the whole “coaching” thing locked up from all his years as an assistant and they assumed he would pick up the “salesman” skill shortly after that first Final Four trip.

Now they say he’s a crock.

They say he hasn’t signed good enough players to deal with injuries. He hasn’t made the proper arrangements to keep his team away from trouble and he hasn’t been willing to cut the cord when things have gone wrong.

Technically, that’s true.

Weber could have forced some of his best players on to the court when they were injured but he didn’t. He told them to get healthy and played with his backups.

Weber could have cut Rich McBride and Jamar Smith when they were arrested for DUIs and told them to get lost. Instead, he decided to back his players, gave both suspensions and has willingly accepted the role of helping them through their troubles.

In every case this year in which Weber has had to choose between wins and losses and the betterment of his players, he’s sided with his kids.

It’s unbelievable really, a coach more worried about the long-term future of one player rather than the short-team success of his entire team.

Looking back, I guess we should have known all along. Just remember 2005.

Even when the Illini were killing teams every night, Weber always seemed to pawn the success off on his players. He was never willing to take credit for what his team did. He never, not once, stood up said “It was me; I made this team this good.”

It’s despicable, a major college coach only worried about his players. The whole time, he never had an ulterior motive. He never even tried to sneak away with some credit.

Now, people in Illini Nation want to fire him. They’ve had enough of his nice-guy “aw shucks” attitude and they won’t stand for it anymore. They want results, and even though Weber’s had plenty of it, they say his “life” is more important than “basketball” style just won’t cut it anymore.

They say if he wanted to be a mentor and help people, he should’ve been a camp counselor not a basketball coach.

They say if he’s more worried about his players than his record then they’ve had enough of him. They say his priorities are off. They say good riddance.

I say, “Keep it up Bruce; you’re doing a great job.”

Lucas Deal is a senior in Communications. He can be reached at

[email protected]