Strong Work Ethic Gives Weber An Edge

It is a rare breed indeed that can work a full career as a head college basketball coach. He must have tireless energy, selflessly give of his time to all sorts of interested parties, and a thick skin to absorb all the criticisms. Fighting Illini coach Bruce Weber is one of these rare people. He seems to thrive on hard work and responsibility.

Bruce Weber takes his job with the University of Illinois seriously. Besides working countless hours preparing his basketball teams for their games, he has myriad additional details with which to deal. He often leaves at the end of practices for recruiting trips that return him home late at night. Even if he gets back at a reasonable hour, he may sleep fitfully as he ponders the complications of his life.

He has a schedule that most could not handle for any length of time, and yet he doesn't seem to suffer burnout as many do.

"It is a big responsibility," Weber admits. "To be honest, I don't worry about burnout. I've been doing it like this since I started. It comes a little bit from the work ethic of my parents and how I was raised."

Weber says it hasn't gotten any easier over time.

"I remember when I got moved up to full-time at Purdue my second year, my fourth year of coaching, I was his (Gene Keady's) only assistant. He had let some other guys go. We had just got married, we had camp and I had to spend 20 some nights in a dorm.

"Then I went on the road recruiting. I was the only one out for 6 weeks. My wife asked if this is always the way it's gonna be. I said, 'Don't worry, once we get all settled it will become easier.' But I don't know if it has become easier.

"If anything, it's become more time-demanding. I think that's why when you do have time, you have to make sure you give quality time to your family as much as you can. I try, but I'm still probably not the best at it."

There is rarely much free time for coaches. Recruiting takes up much of their time in the spring, that plus NCAA-permitted team workouts. The camp season takes up much of June, and July is a time for hitting up AAU tourneys all over the country. Players return in August, the beginning of a hectic and pressure-packed 7-8 months.

"I think you go on adrenalin so much throughout the stretch of the season," Weber reminds. "So when you get into May, that's when you realize you're tired. You try to relax. This year we had what we call a 'basketball crisis.' It's a joke in my house there's always a basketball crisis.

"You're on 24-hour call, and you never get to relax. It was Demetri (McCamey) and Mike Davis. Then it was Jerrance's thing with Kentucky. It just seems like there's always something that you have to deal with. That's what makes it tough.

"Even when you go home, it's hard to get away from it because one, you're recognized by everyone, and two, you're responsible for so many things and people. There's always somebody wanting your time and your attention to something. That's the difference between an assistant and a head coach."

For most people, free time is precious. They work for the time they can take a break and forget their problems for awhile. Weber cannot forget his problems even when he gets away for awhile.

"Last week, we actually went away for three days, and I almost have more trouble with that because I'm still always thinking about things. It takes me 3-4 days of getting away to kind of relax and get away from it.

"We've gotten to the point with my family, if I can get away from my cell phone, that's the biggest thing. That might mean go to some place where my cell phone doesn't work. That's probably the most relaxing. And when that happens, after three days or so I still call back just to make sure there's no problems."

Some coaches restrict their involvement in activities outside coaching and recruiting and guard their privacy carefully. But Weber is aware of and responsive to the needs of the greater community as a whole.

"The job's not just coaching. It's alumni, you're an ambassador for the University, you're a community member and leader in the community. There's so many things."

Each year, Weber's family grows. He is nothing if not a quality friend and, if needed, father figure for those in his extended family.

"And then the other part, you've got so many former guys too. This is thirty years now. I have contact with guys back to Western Kentucky, definitely all the Purdue guys, SIU guys. My assistants call it 'Saluki Welfare.' There's always someone calling for help with this or to work camp or this and that.

"In a way, it's like your family just keeps growing and growing. And you've got your own kids to worry about, and your wife and brothers and sisters. But then you throw all these former players in there, or coaches or managers. That extended family gets bigger and bigger every year."

Part three reflects back to the great Illini 2004-05 team that met North Carolina in the National Championship game. Weber talks about what it would take to duplicate that special team effort.

Illini Inquirer Top Stories