By Paul M. Banks and Rikki Greenberg
Welcome to a new feature here at TSB where I’ll give you the highlights of the many Bruce Weber press conferences that I attend over the course of the season. As we get closer to March Madness, I’ll be publishing for you the most meaningful statements I’ve heard Weber make. Before we begin, I’ll let my apprentice Rikki set the scene and tell you more about the man.
It’s not every day that you meet someone with as much juice as Weber who just won his 150th game at Illinois on Sunday. The cuddly leader of the Fighting Illini (22-6, 10-5 Big Ten) is a man of many signature characteristics and achievements.
Perhaps the trademark of Coach Weber isn’t his long list of credentials or extensive collection of orange apparel, but the solid defense integrated into every team he’s been in charge of. This year’s squad ranks third nationally in scoring defense. Illinois ranked 19th in scoring defense last season and 11th the season before.
The quality guidance and hefty basketball knowledge is tripled in potency by Weber’s happy-go-lucky personality, intense love of the game and the carroty blazer he sometimes sports at some Illini games. However, the distinctive raspy voice (due to the removal of polyps on his vocal cords when Weber was a child) booming from a microphone is a great way to identify the coach.
Coach Weber’s vocal oddity, and the way he often needlessly yells into a voice amplifying could be ripe material for an SNL skit or SportsCenter commercial, but he’s so darn lovable that you just want to run up and give him a big bear hug instead.
Fun factoid: TSB’s Editor-in-Chief/founding father can do one mean Bruce Weber impression. The voice sounds like Weber, but the transformation isn’t complete without the beige blazer and bright orange tie. Banks did feel kind of bad for mocking his favorite team’s coach because of Weber’s sweetie pie demeanor. I just hope Banks doesn’t get too carried away with his Weber imitation and start holding alternative Illini press conferences on You Tube.
On the advice he gives Dr. Chester Frazier, his senior guard that he assigns to the other team’s best scorer every game
“Just be solid. Just be basic.”
Great advice. After another game he told Dr. Chester Frazier
“Just be basic and be a threat”
His description of Mike Tisdale
“Needs to be more confident as a person, and he can’t decide beforehand, he over-analyzes, over-thinks things and then he makes decisions ahead of time, and then if it doesn’t go right, right away he kinda gets on his heels and starts hanging his head”
Regarding Demetri McCamey
“If you study him over the course of time, he has very good games and then he has a tendency not to be real consistent, this goes back way to high school and AAU and that’s where he’s got to mature. He has the big one and then average, average. And he needs to be more consistent if we’re going to be a very good team because he can do things that other people can’t do.”
The main difference between this season and last…
“We have a team with so many guys in new roles. They went from 7-8 minutes a game to 35, 30 minutes a game, so they have to adjust to that and get a feel for each other. Every game in the non-conference is an NCAA game. It’s kind of like a little bracket and with each win you’re moving on into the tournament, no matter what. Unless you totally recover like Purdue did in the Big Ten last year. They struggled non conference, but then changed it, turned it around and made the nice run in the Big Ten, so you try and gear up your resume so that when it comes down to it, where’s your RPI, where’s your conf RPI and all those things”
How/why their embarrassing losses haven’t resulted in catastrophic season, like they did last year
“No doubt we put ourselves in a big bind and never recovered. And you learn from losing to and I hate to even say it, Tennessee State and it’s a constant reminder. We can talk about it, and talk about where we were and this is what happened last year and I don’t want to keep reminding them”
On Dominique Keller’s ability to break the zone
“He’s pretty active and when he gets on that short corner he can rip and go, he can shoot the little shot, he’s got that hook, so he read it pretty well, he needs to learn the game, and watch the film with the coaches.”
On Dominique rarely coming to watch film with the coaches…
“Let’s just say I think he thinks we have a disease and he doesn’t want to come near us. But it’s different in junior college, they might not even have film to be honest. And it’s hard to take the criticism, for anyone it’s hard for me and I’ve had enough of it, but its human nature and we tell him it’s to watch film and to get better and watch so you recognize. What’s on the game tape is the truth, you watch it, it’s there, it’s something learn from.”
His team defense, ranked third nationally in points per game against…
“What I’ve said since the beginning, team defense. We went in to the season and talked about we didn’t have great individual defenders besides Chester, we’re hoping somebody becomes it. Trent has been very, very solid. You gotta help, you gotta be there.”