The Illini aren’t quite living up to expectations but coach Bruce Weber has a plan to fix the team’s problems. The Athletic Director has confidence in Weber too.
Illinois Athletic Director Ron Guenther said Wednesday he’s confident coach Bruce Weber can fix problems in a basketball program that the AD acknowledged isn’t living up to expectations.
Guenther, in wide-ranging news conference a few hours before the Illini faced Michigan, also said football coach Ron Zook and his staff will get raises after a 7-6 season that included a bowl win.
And Guenther said the school is reviving long-stalled plans to renovate the basketball team’s home, the 48-year-old Assembly Hall.
Guenther said the basketball Illini, who have fallen out of the Top 25 after a rough stretch that included losses at Indiana and Northwestern, haven’t gotten the performance they counted on from seniors Demetri McCamey, Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale.
“We’ve got a senior class that probably hasn’t played to their potential,” Guenther said. “We’ve lost a lot of confidence”
McCamey in particular has struggled over the past 10 games. He was considered one of the country’s best point guards entering the season.
Guenther said he expects the Illini to be an NCAA team every season, but they’ve missed the tournament two of the past three seasons and are probably several wins away from getting there this year.
Guenther nonetheless said he’ll leave any potential changes, if any need to be made at the end of the season, up to his eighth-year coach.
“I would expect that this program will resurface here soon,” he said, tracing some of the team’s problems to a couple of rough recruiting years that will leave the team with no scholarships seniors nex season.
Zook will get a $250,000-a-year raise, boosting his salary to $1.75 million once approved by university trustees.
Zook’s staff will get raises, too. That includes offensive coordinator Paul Petrino, who will get a $50,00 raise to $525,000 a year, and defensive coordinator Vic Koenning, who will be paid $342,000, a $17,000 bump.
Petrino and Koenning were hired to help revive Illinois football after most of Zook’s staff was fired after the three-win 2009 season.
Guenther said Wednesday he expects the team to make it to a bowl game next season, following up last season’s Texas Bowl victory against Baylor. He said getting to the postseason routinely should be the goal.
He said that’s not impossible to do at Illinois, but acknowledged it isn’t easy.
“The last guy to do it here was John Mackovic,” Guenther said. Mackovic coached the Illini from 1988 through ’91.
The school may renew plans to renovate the Assembly Hall, he said, though construction wouldn’t start until 2012 at the soonest. No cost estimates are available yet and the school has yet to sign off on doing the project.
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