Illini Wonk
Saturday, January 22, 2005
  The winding road for Weber
Illinois basketball coach Bruce Weber has cut off the availability of his players to the media until after their game at Wisconsin on Tuesday (more in this post from Illini Wonk). However, he hasn't cut himself off as is evidenced by this fascinating profile from Dick Jerardi of the Philadelphia Daily News. The article details the difficult road that Weber faced on his way to Champaign. Here's some of the highlights:

He was just another anonymous assistant coach trying to get somebody's athletic director to notice him. He interviewed for just about every head job in the Mid-American Conference. Eventually, he figured he would just stay where he was until his mentor retired and succeed him.
Then, Purdue hired a new president and athletic director. Gene Keady told Bruce Weber he probably would not get the job when he retired. Told him it was time to go somewhere else.
Today, Keady is coaching his final season at Purdue. And Weber is head coach of the No. 1 team in the country.

"I can't even tell you how many times I interviewed,'' Weber says. "I think I did the whole MAC conference. I did Miami of Ohio twice and Toledo twice. It got frustrating.

"I was happy at Purdue. I was happy with my job. Coach Keady treated me great. I had a lot of responsibility.''

When the Southern Illinois job opened in 1998, Keady pushed Weber for the job, figuring it was then or maybe never. Weber got it. Four years later, his team was in the Sweet 16. After five seasons, his record was 103-54.

When Roy Williams left Kansas for North Carolina after the 2002-03 season, Bill Self left Illinois for Kansas. And Weber got called upstate to take over at Illinois.

Last season, it was 26-7 and a Sweet 16 loss to Duke. This season, it is 19-0 and No. 1.
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