Sunday, March 11, 2012

Bruce Weber and Being "Too Nice"

So, Bruce Webber, head coach of the University of Illinois Fighting Illini Men's Basketball team, is no longer head coach of the University of Illinois Fighting Illini Men's Basketball team. This is altogether fitting and proper. While the guy was justifiably loved in Urbana (hard not to like a guy when he tells you he's working his dream job), success had been fleeting since 2005, and hell, I could have coached THAT team to the Elite Eight, at least.

The consensus thought is that Webber was a very good man, but it just wasn't working. Indeed, many commentators have said he was too nice to be effective, especially as far as recruitment goes. I feel like that's true, although I can't really point to specific things that support this narrative (but since that won't stop any other member of the Sports Media Industrial Complex...). And yes, it's shitty that the modern college basketball culture pushes coaches into skirting the line on recruitment violations.

But y'know what? If it does, it does. I'll bitch about that some other time, and for now, concede that you have to be a bit of a prick to find success in college basketball. Fine.

But then, will someone will please tell Coach K and Roy Williams and Tom Izzo and the rest of the warrior poets who are supposed to be Molding Boys Into Young Men to go piss up a rope?

Understand that I'm not lamenting Weber's fate, and I'm not exactly rending garments over What College Basketball Has Become. I'm really okay with it just being a hardass meritocracy, where all that matters is the Win. I just want some goddamn honesty that that's what's up, not another fucking book of inspirational sayings from John Wooden.


  1. The three coaches you mention had success well before it became mandatory to go outside the NCAA rules to land top tier recruits. Weber was, by at least one ESPN talking head, called "Too Ethical to succeed."

    Think about that for a minute. We had a coach trying to do things the right way, and he gets fired for only having an average team.

    I suppose the powers that be would rather have someone like John Calipari. But this is a lot like football / bounties. How do you change culture of a huge, multi billion dollar megalith like the NFL or NCAA?

    I'm sure I'm biased. I was at that Elite 8 game in '05 where they came back from an unfathomable 14pt deficit with 4 minutes to go in regulation, and won in OT. I have the video to prove it. Still gives me chills. And I was nearly in tears watching that big fat guy from North Carolina bully us in the paint in the championship game. But I liked coach weber. I like guys who succeed the right way. That's why i grudgingly like Tom Izzo.

    Oh, and who's going to replace Weber? I hope it is someone young, doing things the right way, but using sophisticated analytics and computer science grad students to good use.

  2. You're right, those three guys certainly predate the era of Kelvin Sampson. And I don't really have a problem with those guys (Coach K is annoying, but that's all), I have a problem with this entire narrative that college coaches are REALLY teaching the athletes integrity and determination and how to carry on in this proud tradition of the Platonic Ideal of the Student Athlete (and those guys are just examples of that narrative). That doesn't square with someone being "too ethical" for the job.

    I don't want to minimize the problems with college basketball recruitment. But I'm not entirely up to speed on that issue, so I'll reserve my bitching for now. For now, I just want the college basketball media to stop speaking out of both sides of its mouth.

    As for the next coach, some of the articles I've read on the new AD don't inspire a lot of confidence in me. If all he wants to do is get a good Company Man, that's probably not going to be very impressive.

  3. The program needs a Shaka to the system. That would be Smart.