Bruce Weber definitely has some big shoes to fill. Frank Martin was a beloved figure in Manhattan as the men’s head basketball coach and rightfully so. After taking the team to an Elite 8 appearance in 2010, earning the Big 12 Coach of the Year award along the way, Martin had an impressive five seasons at Kansas State with a 117-54 record. Weber, in short, has some work to do.
Weber is going to be named the new head coach replacing Martin who departed for South Carolina in a surprise move earlier this week. Weber was just fired from the University of Illinois, so immediately fan and media reaction has not been favorable. After all, who wants another team’s leftovers?
But who exactly is Kansas State getting with the new hire? It’s a good question fans will want to know that unfortunately doesn’t tell much given Weber’s mixed bag of success and disappointment.
Weber was once among the hottest coaching names in the country as he took the Southern Illinois Salukis to great heights in the Missouri Valley Conference. Every year brings a mid-major team to the national spotlight and makes a hot coaching candidate out of that team’s head coach. Weber was the man for Southern Illinois for a couple of seasons as his team went to the Sweet 16 in 2001-02 and then another trip to the tournament followed the next year. That’s when Illinois came calling.
Unfortunately, Weber was never able to put it all together on his own at Illinois. He’s not known as a strong recruiter, so after a lot of initial success at Illinois with Bill Self’s players, Weber fell when the talent was his burden to bear. Using Self’s recruits, Weber finished first in the Big Ten for two straight seasons and even lost in the NCAA Championship game to North Carolina in 2005. Everything looked promising but it fell apart after that.
In the last five seasons, Weber has only been to the Big Dance twice and the NIT once and missed the postseason altogether two times. Last year, the Illini finished ninth in the Big Ten standings, leading to his dismissal. Weber, in short, can be a good coach with the right recruits and has even enjoyed some tremendous success at times. However, the long haul doesn’t bode well for him — at least during his stay at Illinois.
Given Self’s shadow that looms here, Weber is going to continue to have a hard time recruiting locally. It will be interesting to see what he does with Martin’s guys, and there might be some initial success. Frank Haith certainly did well with the hand he was dealt last season. Thus some people might instantly hop on the Weber bandwagon and forget about Martin if Weber does right with K-State in 2012-13.
However, it’s the long road ahead that will tell whether or not John Currie got this hire right. For now, the mixed results make it difficult to discern.