Bruce Weber can now relax in that he has a basketball coaching position at Kansas State, but hectic rules in the Wildcat basketball office as he enters his fourth day on the job.
Saturday, he was hired; Sunday he returned to his former home of Champaign, Ill.; Monday he was back in his new home of Manhattan to work on his coaching staff, workout players and do interview, after interview, after interview.
caught some time with Weber last week.
Coach Weber, what have the last 48 hours, or so, been like?
Just crazy. There's so much going on. It started with going to New Orleans where I had some interviews schedule, but to be honest, this (K-State) wasn't one of them. I had already met with John (Currie) on Wednesday and he indicated he might stay away from New Orleans.
But then I get a call and he says he's in New Orleans and can we meet again. It was supposed to be for a Diet Coke and for an hour, but it ended up being three hours, and then later another two-hour session. They made the offer and then I called my wife about midnight (Friday) to tell her we were employed again, and we'd pick her up tomorrow (Saturday) morning."
It's been a great weekend. I rushed back to Champaign (Ill.) to attend the cheerleading banquet and my youngest daughter won the female Cheerleader of the Year at Illinois for being whatever … MVP, or loudest, or something. Then on May 5 my middle daughter is getting married. May 5 … Cinco de Mayo, the Kentucky Derby and my daughter's birthday, so it's going to stay busy for a while.
It's been well chronicled that you were dismissed from Illinois about three weeks ago. What has the emotional ride been like for you now that you're back in the business?
It's been longer that that because I could see what was coming. It was a tough stretch because you put you put your heart and soul into the game and into your school and things just didn't go right, which included thing you can't control. It is tough. It eats at you.
But what I did appreciate is how people reached out to me. There was a week when I had 1,000 text messages … former players, coaches, ADs, coaches I didn't even know reaching out to me. It wasn't a good situation, but it made me feel good.
Someone said to me that I was very fortunate because I was able to live your own wake and how you've been eulogized. I didn't understand that comment at first, but it did give me the opportunity to get a feel for how many people I have touched. That was a positive thing, but I still didn't have a job.
Then K-State makes the hire. Coach, you addressed the fact that you knew the hire was with mixed reviews.
Honestly, if there's anything that should be bothering me, I don't know about. I know there's people that like this guy, or that guy. If they hire a guy here, well, he's not been a head coach; if they hire another guy, he wouldn't be this or that. I just appreciate the fact that John gave me this chance to go prove it on the court.
I'm sure at Southern Illinois there were mixed reviews, and then when I was hired at Illinois I'm sure there were some that weren't excited about hiring some guy from Southern Illinois. We had a lot to prove and we were very fortunate to have had the players coach Self left. We struggled early, and got booed early … they called it ‘Weber's commotion instead of motion' … and it was hard for a while. Whether at Illinois, or here, the most important thing is winning over the players. If we win them over, and we win, the fans will be there.
What has been your first impression of your Kansas State team through meetings and your first on-court session?
The first thing is I really like the kids. I did do some homework and reached out to find out what kind of group it was. You hear that they were a dysfunctional team at times, but I wasn't here, so I didn't know that. I just know from my first meetings, they really seem to be good kids.
What a quality kid Rodney (McGruder) is, and Jordan (Henriquez).
I hope they're not conning me, but they sure seem to be good kids. I think they're excited for a fresh start with a new face. They've told me that they practice hard, and we compete, and we have toughness, and those have been the trademarks of my teams.
You mentioned K-State associate head coach Brad Underwood, who will be joining coach Martin at South Carolina. Did you offer him a position on your staff?
He was the first person I talked to Saturday night. I just told him that you've had a great run here, and I always like to keep someone with school ties, or has been with the program. I just said I'd love to talk with you, but he called me Monday morning and said he was going to South Carolina. I told him I would leave an open door for a couple days and if you have a change of heart, let me know.
The fans are concerned about the potential of players leaving.
I can tell you right now that I've had nothing but positive talks with guys. I've heard those things, but I've tried to reach out to them and it looks pretty good.
One last thing: K-State 73, Purdue 70, in the Sweet 16 round of the 1988 NCAA tournament. Any memories?
Oh my yes … Mitch Richmond banked one in from the top of the key and he didn't call it … I promise you. It was a heartbreaker for us. What I remember is that they came into our place and we beat them soundly (101-72) earlier in the year. Then we had to go convince our guys how good they were. The worst thing that happened is that we went up on them something like 10-0. They stormed back and then I think we froze and didn't make some plays down the stretch and Mitch Richmond did. It was a heartbreaker, no doubt.