Bruce Weber Not Going to Oklahoma, but what would Illini do Without Him?

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Rumors released via the Twitter-verse that Illinois coach Bruce Weber is in talks with the Oklahoma Sooners on their head coaching vacancy.  Two newspapers in Oklahoma are apparently releasing statements about the rumor today.

Of course, it’s all about CYA in college basketball reporting, since no one wants to “pull a Bernie Miklasz,” but ironically, the same newspaper that employs Milkasz, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, was the one that squashed the rumors. Stu Durando texted Weber, and the coach told him all the reports were false.

A quick timeline of the Weber to OU rumors.

But if you’re an Illini fan, this probably got you thinking about what life would be like if Weber left.

Why would he leave Champaign?

Well, that’s a pretty easy one to answer. His first three seasons he went 89-16, had a national championship game appearance, and looked like to be one of the best coaches in the nation. Illinois fans loved him because he did what former coach Bill Self couldn’t, and that was get the school to the Final Four and on the “map” in college basketball.

After those first three years though, Weber hasn’t been anything extraordinary. He has actually been rather ordinary missing the NCAA tournament twice in 5 years, and only having 104 wins in 5 years – 15 more than his previous 3 years.  With Athletic Director Ron Guenther, the man who hired him, possibly not returning next year, Weber probably sees this as a way out without getting “removed” from his position.

At Oklahoma (or a similar hypothetical job), he won’t have the expectations he has at Illinois. With the University of Illinois in a financial crunch, I wouldn’t expect them to match any offer that a major program would give him, probably in the $1.7 to $1.8 million a year range.

Another question on Illini fan minds: What would it mean to the development of players like Jereme Richmond, Brandon Paul, and DJ Richardson? Another simple answer in my opinion: they’d benefit from having a different coach, AS LONG as it’s the right fit.

Weber infused a defense-first attitude with these guys and that’s how you win games in the NCAA and Big Ten. But, Weber’s system is all about guard play and it gets stagnant and limits a player’s potential sometimes. Paul and Richardson could be better penetrating and getting to the rim, or kicking it out to the open man.  Some thing that Illinois has lacked since Deron Williams and Dee Brown left.

As for Richmond, it’s probably a 50/50 shot he’s even coming back to the program next year, so let’s save that discussion for a future article.

It wouldn’t be too hard bringing in a new, young coach who can get the most out of their players.  Maybe the new coach could bring in a dominant post player and rebounder for once? I’ve mentioned before that having a dominant rebounder in the Big Ten is a must with the likes of Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State in the same conference. And it’s no surprise Illinois struggles against them.

The University of Illinois loves its basketball and has become a basketball school due to the football team’s recent struggles. Whether or not Weber stays long term after Guenther isn’t important. What is important is that the Illini have a successful season with the talent they have. They need to win more than first-round tourney games. And compete for Big Ten championships, Final Four appearances and National Championships. Keeping Weber there shouldn’t and won’t change these expectations.

 

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