September 14, 2008 Guest – Coach Bruce Weber
On April 30th, 2003 Bruce Weber
was named the new men's head basketball coach for the University of Illinois.
Said Ron Guenther, Illinois AD, when he announced the hiring of Weber, "he has
all the qualities we were seeking; Midwest roots, Big Ten experience, integrity
and commitment to academics." Guenther went on to say, "I think our kids are
going to enjoy playing for him because he's honest. I can't say enough about the
integrity of Bruce Weber."
Weber, who has obviously earned this
opportunity, was spoken of in glowing terms by his long time mentor,
teacher and friend Gene Keady, head basketball coach at Purdue, who
said, "It's a tremendous opportunity for Bruce. Any job in the Big Ten
is a tremendous opportunity. When I took the job at Purdue, I felt like
it was a dream come true. I know Bruce feels that way about Illinois
because I just spoke with him on Wednesday morning. I'm very proud of
him and wish him all the success in the world, except in two games every
season, when they play Purdue. It's just a great success story, and I
wish Bruce and his family the very best."
Bill Self, current head basketball coach at
Kansas, and Weber's predecessor had this to say, "Illinois has made a
great choice for its basketball coach. Bruce Weber is a tremendous coach
and someone I have a great deal of respect for. We competed against his
teams at both Tulsa and Illinois -- we split those games, and we were
lucky to do so. Based on what I've seen from afar, he is a players'
coach, and Illinois' returners will benefit greatly from his
appointment. He will have a similar philosophy to what we did at
Illinois -- his teams are always very tough and hard-nosed, yet they
have freedom offensively. I'm very pleased for the school and for the
players -- Bruce will do a great job in Champaign."
Weber remarked at the time of his appointment,
"I've said I would only take a job where I felt I had an opportunity to
be at a national program at a place where I had a chance to finish my
career ... and have a chance of winning a national championship. And I
believe that this is it. I am honored and humbled to be named the coach
here, it's a tremendous honor," said Weber, head basketball coach at
Southern Illinois the past five seasons.
Weber, who started his head coaching career at
Southern Illinois University beginning with the 1998-99 season, enjoyed
a large measure of success which propelled him to the UI job.
In five seasons at the helm of the Saluki
basketball program Weber coached his teams to an overall record of
103-54 (.656) winning percentage. The Saluki's went 52-15 (.776) winning
percentage overall in his last two seasons at Southern Illinois and an
astounding 30-6 (.833) winning percentage in conference play. When the
smoke cleared following the regular 2002-03 season Weber could take
pride in the fact only four Division I teams had won more basketball
games the previous two seasons than Southern Illinois had.
In addition Weber's Saluki teams won the
Missouri Valley Conference title in back to back seasons and enjoyed
back to back trips to the NCAA postseason tournament including a Sweet
16 appearance in 2002. Weber earned Missouri Valley Conference
Coach-of-the-Year honors following the 2003 season.
The Bruce Weber coached Saluki teams stock in
trade has been an aggressive defense playing fundamentally sound
basketball. In Weber's final two seasons at SIU they held opponents to
40% shooting from the field. Offensively they averaged 75.5 points per
game in 2002 and 74.5 points per game in 2003. At Weber's departure
following the completion of the 2002-03 season SIU has a 27 game home
court winning streak.
Weber has 25 years total coaching experience
at the NCAA Division I level. He was with Gene Keady for 19 of those
seasons including 18 at Purdue. During Weber's coaching days at Purdue
the Boilermakers' won six Big Ten championships and made 17 postseason
tournament appearances including 14 trips to the NCAA "Big Dance."
Its certainly fair to say Weber has gotten off
on the right foot at the University of Illinois. His first season as the
Fighting Illini basketball coach produced a 26-7 record (.787) winning
percentage, top notch in any coaches league. Weber led the Illini to
their first outright Big Ten title in 52 years, having survived a
showdown with Ohio State. The 26 games Illinois won in Weber's first
year represents the third best in school history. The Fighting Illini
finished the 2003-04' season ranked 11th nationally in the final
ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll. To top off Weber's first season at the helm
the Illini enjoyed a trip to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen.
Bruce and his wife, Megan, have three
daughters, Hannah (17), Christy (15) and Emily (11).