In what comes as a surprise to no one, Illinois fired head coach Bruce Weber Friday morning following a loss to Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday.
What started out as a promising looking year to the Illini, in which they started 15-3 and 5-1 in the conference, ended in the worst imaginable way possible by finishing 2-11. But this firing isn’t just because of one season, it’s because of the last five mainly. Bruce showed he couldn’t do much of anything without the big three, Deron Williams, Luther Head, and Dee Brown, all of whom he inherited from his predecessor Bill Self.
Bruce also seemed to have trouble finding players to fit the system he ran. Towards the end of his tenure, he didn’t struggle finding high profile recruits anymore, but he just didn’t know how to coach and handle these talented kids. Every player from his 2010 class was a 5 star player at one point. Jereme Richmond was a high profile recruit all throughout his high school career who left after one year at Illinois. Crandall Head, younger brother of Illini legend Luther Head, was a 5 star before tearing his ACL in high school, then transferred after not seeing the court much in his one and a half seasons at Illinois. Meyers Leonard was a 5 star on Rivals and even rated in the top 20 players in the nation at one point, and he’ll most likely be a lottery pick if he decides to enter the NBA Draft this year. Bruce’s 2011 class was extremely solid as well getting four 4 star players, and two three stars. The four 4 stars, Mike Shaw, Myke Henry, Nnanna Egwu and Tracy Abrams are all out of the place people say Weber can’t recruit from, Chicago. All four will be huge parts in the Illini’s future and for whoever they hire as their next coach. All of these highly rated recruits should have brought more wins than just 17 this year.
But he didn’t get criticism because of those two classes, it was all his classes that came before it. It came from having no fall back plans after Indiana cheated Eric Gordon away. It came from wanting Bill Cole instead of Illinois legacy Robbie Hummel when Hummel wanted to be here. It came from not wanting E’Twaun Moore. That entire class would be the main reason Weber is no longer the coach. That class for Illinois featured Demetri McCamey (who often batted heads with Bruce), Mike Tisdale (who fans called soft and a Euro center all through college), Mike Davis (someone who had a boatload of talent, but could never put it all together), and Bill Cole (whom they remember as the guy Weber took instead of Robbie Hummel). That classes tenure while at Illinois was the snowball at the top of the mountain for Weber, and bad season after mediocre season after bad season it finally became an avalanche.
Weber had a 210-101 regular season record and an 89-66 Big Ten record.
Coming up in the week I’ll go over the top candidates for the job.