There likely isn’t a greater compliment to give a college basketball coach than to call him a basketball junkie. For Bruce Weber, it’s how his players and his assistants have come to know the 57-year-old head coach.
Having played for Weber throughout his collegiate career at Illinois,
K-State assistant coach Chester Frazier said he has a strong understanding of
Weber’s coaching and teaching methods.
“He lives, breathes and sleeps basketball,” Frazier said. “That right there gives him a one-up on the
competition. He knows his stuff and he’s a great X’s and O’s guy as well
as a great offensive mind.”
As freshman guard Marcus Foster navigated through the recruiting process, he said he was enamored by Weber’s hunger for the game. It’s a hunger that he said he believes is just as strong as the day they first met.
“I came in one night [to the Basketball Training Facility] and he was in here doing something in his office,” Foster said. “He came down and rebounded for me then and helped me with my shot. He just cares for all of his players.”
Since his 1978 graduation at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, coaching quickly became a key component of Weber’s career. He accepted his first assistant coaching position at Western Kentucky for the following season.
Weber joined the Hilltopper program that was led by former K-State great Gene Keady. It was Keady that helped the Milwaukee, Wis., native develop an eye for the Wildcat program.
When Weber was hired at K-State in April 2012, he acknowledged Keady’s influence as an important element in his decision to come to the Little Apple.
The influence spread over 19 seasons for Weber as he continued to be an assistant for the Hall of Fame coach at two different schools. After Keady accepted the job at Purdue, he brought
Weber with him to West Lafayette, Ind., and the two coaches spent 18
seasons together at the helm of the Boilermaker program.
Prior to the 1998 season, Weber accepted the head-coaching job at Southern Illinois and led the Salukis to three postseason trips, which included a Sweet 16 appearance and 28-8 overall record in 2001-02.
As Weber finished his fifth season at Southern Illinois, he decided to head north on Highway 57 in order to take over the Illinois Fighting Illini program.
Weber tallied a 63-9 record through his first two seasons in Champaign, which also included a 37-2 record and national championship appearance during his second season. Weber finished his tenure with a number of up-and-down seasons that ultimately led to his firing at the conclusion of the 2011-12 season.
K-State assistant coach Chris Lowery said he credits Weber for his watchful eye in deciding where he’d like to work next and making sure he made the right call.
“It was a good job,” Lowery said of Weber’s decision to come to K-State. “Seeing who was here, seeing they had a lot of guys returning, seeing the vision of the AD and that it has come to fruition with the practice facility and the football side; a little bit of it is luck but it was also foresight on his part to take the job.”
Weber admits that he didn’t have a great working knowledge of the Big 12
before taking the K-State job. As he’s developed in Manhattan, he said recruiting players that fit the style of the conference has been a high priority.
“You get a little better athlete in this league
(compared to the Big Ten)”, Weber said. “It seemed like every team had
that 6-foot-5 to 6-foot-9 athlete that maybe you don’t have. You see it
in football even and it’s a speed element that the Big Ten didn’t quite
Despite a Big 12 Championship in his opening season as head coach, Weber has been unable to put the program in cruise control.
Whether it was a second-round NCAA Tournament loss at the hands of La Salle or a season-opening loss to Northern Colorado, Weber has caught his fair share of skepticism from outside and inside the K-State community.
“I think he gets a lot of unfair criticism,” Frazier said. “All he has done is win. He has won everywhere he has been and you’ve got to respect a guy that does things the right way.”
Frazier said that in his mind, a willingness to grow and develop as a coach on a daily basis embodies what Weber has done in Manhattan.
“He has been willing to change a lot more,” Frazier said. “As the game changes, you’ve got to change with it and that has been the key. You can’t be stubborn and say we’re going to do things one way. The game has evolved and I’ve seen coach evolve with it.”