Illinois Coach Bruce Weber sounded like a dead man walking last night in his post game press conference. Following the Illini home loss to Purdue, which effectively killed his team’s NCAA Tournament at-large chances, Weber sounded very defeatist when meeting the media.
He called out some of his own players (Meyers Leonard, for his body language specifically), gushed over some of his opponents’ players, reflected on the last three years, and apologized for some of the things that went on during his regime in Champaign.
Basically, it sounded a lot like a guy who was saying goodbye, and letting it all out on the way to the door.
Today, he issued a statement explaining himself through the University (obtained via ESPN Chicago):
“I would like to expand on my comments from last night’s press conference. I spoke out of frustration following another difficult loss. I am disappointed in myself, as I said, for not developing a culture of toughness with our team up to this point in the season.
The difference between winning and losing is toughness and having the will to win, and that is something we will continue to try to instill in our team. We have a young group that has now been involved in 13 games decided by five points or less, which I believe is the most of any program in the country this season.
Our players, our staff, and I know our fans are frustrated because we are so close to putting it together. As I told our team last night, we have a lot to play for over these last five regular season games as well as the Big Ten Tournament. We still have an opportunity to make the NCAA Tournament, and I’m looking forward to practice today and working with our players to help us reach that goal.”
So that’s what Weber said in a statement today….Here’s some of what he said last night:
“It’s just sad. I feel really bad for my staff. They worked so hard. Countless hours. Preparation. The sad thing about the whole thing, and I guess it’s my fault, instead of creating toughness and developing a team, I coached not to lose all year. And that’s really sad to be honest.”
“You have to develop a culture and the last three years all I did was worry about winning instead of developing a culture of toughness. And that’s my fault. The kids, we’re always mollycoddling them.”
And yes, as you might have heard:
According to multiple sources, key Illini boosters have made it clear to Illinois Athletic Director Mike Thomas that Weber’s $3.9 million buyout should not stand in the way of making a change. A similar situation played out in the fall when head football coach Ron Zook was fired with a $2.6 million buyout.
Thomas said Saturday on a Champaign radio station that he would evaluate Weber’s job status at the end of the season. But he also didn’t defend Weber as he took calls from fans criticizing the coach.
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