AP NEWS

Why did Illinois ever let Weber go?

March 4, 2019

This week marks the seventh anniversary of Bruce Weber’s dismissal as the University of Illinois men’s basketball coach.

Weber and the Kansas State University team he now leads have taken one direction in the time since, while the Fightin’ Illini have taken another. These divergent paths prove Illinois made a mistake.

Kansas State currently holds a share of the Big 12 Conference lead. The Big 12 is every bit as competitive as the Big Ten Conference, which includes Illinois among its membership.

Kansas State is a lock to qualify for the 2019 NCAA Tournament, and the berth will be Weber’s fifth in seven years at K-State. Last year, the Wildcats reached the Elite Eight round of the tourney. The only time one of his teams has fared better is 2005, when the Weber-led Illini placed second in the nation.

Meanwhile, Illinois is on its second coach since Weber’s departure. During those seven seasons, the Illini have advanced to the NCAA Tournament only once and will most likely miss the field for the sixth straight year this season as Illinois is in the midst of a second straight losing season.

Translation: Illinois officials never should have let Weber go, and should have admitted the mistake by trying to entice his return two years ago when current coach Brad Underwood was instead hired.

Weber was among the best in his profession at the time of his firing and remains so now. “Among the best” is a term that hasn’t applied to Illinois for nearly a decade now, and it doesn’t look like it will again anytime soon.