Saturday, June 21, 2008

Preseason trash talk.

The IU blogosphere has been all abuzz about Bruce Weber's recent comments about IU. At some sort of Illini circle-jerk a few days ago, Weber said:
The league should be wide open and we can be right in the middle of it. I do know one thing, though. I think Indiana will suck. Don’t put that on the Internet.

I have made clear on many occasions that I don't like Bruce Weber. He was right to be miffed about losing a recruit as talented as Eric Gordon, but as I have said many times before, Weber's inability to shrug it off has done real damage to the Illinois program. After IU's double overtime win at Champaign last year, in that toxic atmosphere created and abetted by Weber and the Illinois administration, I said this about Bruce:
For a college head coach, Weber just doesn't seem to relish competition.
That line, perhaps more than any other, led some Illinois fan to write a Unanbomber-style manifesto about how wrong I was about everything. Certainly, Weber can say whatever he wants to say. And of course, IU coaches have been known to take shots at opponents, albeit with a bit more creativity.

I thought Weber's approval of Chester Frazier's tech-worthy chest bump of Eric Gordon said something about Weber's character and supported my contention. I think his current willingness to talk trash about a team that doesn't return a single recruited scholarship player is exhibit B. Wow, Bruce. Takes a big man to say that you'll have IU's number this year. Weber took over a program that had NCAA championship-caliber talent on hand and drove the program into the crapper. Hopefully the trajectory of Crean, who was Illinois's first choice in 2003, will be the opposite.


Anonymous said...

When most coaches take over a program, they have some issues settling in..recruiting, etc. Bruce didn't have to worry about that when he hopped on board, as Illinois was loaded. The years that followed, I would call his "growing pains". Take a look at the job he's done recruiting for the future, and I'd definitely say crapper is the wrong word! Illinois is on the upswing.
As far as the chest bump goes (sorry to pull this one back up), some players are motivated by that kind of thing. If you've ever played basketball, you should know that your team needs to get pumped up before a game. It was just that. Plus it was a huge game and the crowd wanted Gordon's head. I'm glad all he got was a chest bump. It could have been worse. He ended up having the last laugh anyways.
Furthermore, I wish Crean good luck in his rebuilding of Indiana. He's a great pickup, and I'm sure he will get things on track in a couple of years.

John M said...

Well, sure, most coaches have growing pains. On the other hand, most coaches don't take over programs with NCAA championship-caliber talent on hand. I realize that not all of the Illini adversity is Weber's fault, but would you have believed in 2005 it would be possible for Illinois to miss the NIT in 2008?

I'm all for getting pumped up before the game. Pump your fists, play to the crowd, do a little dance, whatever. When it comes to taking a physical cheap shot at an opponent during introductions, that's where I draw the line. I'm not saying it sums up Chester Frazier as a player or as a person, but it should have been a technical foul. It's one thing if physical play carries past the whistle. It's completely different to take a physical shot well before the game begins.

Yes, the crowd wanted Gordon's head. That's more of a reason for people like Weber and Ron Gunether to act like grownups. As I conceded months ago, IU fans aren't beyond bad behavior towards former or would-be Hoosiers. Just ask Recker, Funderburke, May, and McRoberts. Where Illinois really looked bad in this episode what with the fact that the administration really wanted that atmosphere. Weber was complimentary toward the crowd and Frazier after the game, and U of I issued its half-hearted apology only after reading the scathing media coverage.

Oh well, it's water under the bridge, but obviously still gets people on both sides of the issue fired up.