Many coaches came in with their orange and blue hats, t-shirts, sweaters and jackets, showing the new coach they're supportive of what he's about to do at Illinois. One gentleman was so excited about hearing coach Weber speak, he video taped it and said, "I will use this for motivation when my team gets lazy."
Weber was the first speaker on the agenda and here's what he had to say on Saturday morning at the former stomping grounds of current Illini James Augustine:
"A year ago I did a clinic here about trying to get kids to play hard. This time when they asked me, I decided to cover the principles of the zone offense. (Which will come later this week, here at Illini-Nation).
"Before I get started I want to say that I am very pleased and honored to be the coach at the University of Illinois. I had a great run at Purdue; I was the assistant coach there for 19 years. Even though it was about half of my life, I loved my job there. I didn't think there was anything that could top Purdue. Everyone kept telling me I needed to go out and get a head coaching job. But it's so important to be happy where you are coaching. Regardless of what level you're at - high school or college - be happy. Most coaches are always looking at what they can do next. I've had friends call and tell me you have to call someone at Podunk U because the rumor is that guy is about to get fired. I would say - wait a minute, we have to play OSU tomorrow and I have to go recruiting and get prepared for practice. I hope the guy doesn't get fired, but as long as you're in this business you could be that next guy to be canned. I worked my fanny off there at Purdue; if I would have stayed there I would have been happy. But I had the opportunity to go to Southern Illinois and took full advantage of that.
"It was a great five years there. Two things you need to know before you take a job: tradition and fan support. I think you can go to a place that maybe has done well for a year or so because if they do, you have a chance to bring it back. The administration, players and fans understand what it's about, and they will give you all the support you need to make it happen. What happens sometimes at Mid-Majors is you go down hard and fast. In Mid-Majors, players are key! They are right on the fringe kind of players. If you don't get the "right one" you can have trouble competing. When we got to Southern it was in bad shape with not many good players.
"Now let's take a look at why teams must have energy. An old friend of mind would always ask, "Who brings the energy to your practice?" You can do it yourself some days, but if you think the players will do it everyday - you're in for it guys and you will not have success. Players come to practice with a lot on their minds. Maybe they failed a test, their girlfriend just dropped them, they have problems at home or whatever. Don't expect them to bring it on a daily basis. Besides the coaches having good energy, you better get good people around you who can bring it. You are no better than the people you have around you. I really mean that. This includes your assistant coaches, managers, trainers or whatever you have. They have to have energy. That was one of the things I had to do for coach Keady; I was his sparkplug at Purdue.
"I had to bring energy to practice and I did that by sometimes going after Brad Miller. He could get coach Keady fired up everyday. Sometimes I would make-up things like: Brad's having a bad day, he was out late last night, or he cheap shot some kid. I knew it wasn't true; I just wanted those flames going - and it worked.
"Right now I'm having problems with some of the kids at Illinois with their weights and conditioning. At Illinois they won; they won 51 games in the last two years. There are only five schools that have won more than that and Southern was one of them, with 52 wins. Why? Because we lift very hard and we do it all year. We condition very hard all year. It's been a struggle at Illinois so far with that. Right now James Augustine is the best of the bunch. He's so much fun; all the kids at Illinois are good kids. Friday Augustine was diving on the court and players feed off that. He brings the energy to our team this year. With our conditioning program, we have stepped it up a little at Illinois and the players are struggling with that. I'm trying to convince them that conditioning is not a two-week thing, it's not a three-week thing, it's the whole year, it's two years, three years. You are building your body for the future. It's the same thing with weights. You can't get into shape in two weeks. It's impossible. You have to work at it all the time.
"Next are individual improvement and fundamentals. Guys, you have to work on that with your teams. MSU coach Tom Izzo would always ask, "Weber, who is going to be the guy on your team that sneaks up and makes All Conference this year, or lead the league in scoring?" Fundamentals and conditioning - and we do it hard.
"The next thing we do is teach them how to play and how to compete at every possession. We never put plays in the first few weeks. If you're going to teach motion it takes awhile; players need to learn how to do it well. We will teach kids how to play hard in practice. We will make kids hate to lose at Illinois. Every practice needs to be competitive. I don't care if it's the night before a NCAA game. It could be a shooting drill or something, but I want my kids to compete!
"Next you have to build a family atmosphere. You have to build a family within your program. It is all about being a family. I know one thing - the guys at Illinois are very close and they all get along. I asked athletic director Ron Guenther when I took this job at Illinois if I could take the kids to Europe. It brought us together and it gave me a chance to coach them, get to know them, and learn my style. We all have to be on the same page.
"Sometimes you have to be demanding, but you have to show them you care too. I've been in Division I basketball for 25 years now and it changes a lot. People always ask me what I thought about kids today. I tell them that kids want discipline, you just don't know it. Some of the parents may not like it, but know the importance of it.
"Last thing is that you have to be flexible. If you want to coach long term - you better be. If you don't change, you will be in trouble and won't succeed. Five years ago Jermaine came to practice with braids. I said, "Son, if you want to play tonight you better get those braids out." I wouldn't allow it. But times change. The next year I had to let him do it because I wanted to keep the players. I can tell you one thing - I will allow Dee Brown to wear a headband. I'm not stupid; I want to keep my job. Dee has the braids and the high socks. I really don't care as long as he plays hard. As long as he's apart of the team - which he is.
"Always watch games to learn things. I stay up late at night picking up different things. Put your kids to bed. When your wife is done yelling at you and she then falls asleep - turn on ESPN and learn. There could be one play you see on TV that could make or break your season. Or when you steal a basket on the road it could help you win a game - you never know."