By Adam Hoge –
INDIANAPOLIS (CBS) – The end might be here for Bruce Weber.
After losing 64-61 to Iowa in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, the Illini will wait to see if they make the NIT, and if they don’t, Thursday’s game was likely Weber’s last at Illinois.
“I don’t know,” Weber said when asked if he’s been told whether or not he’ll coach in the NIT. “I don’t even know if we’ll be in the NIT, to be honest. So I don’t know anything.”
Weber said he hasn’t talked to Athletic Director Mike Thomas yet about his future and he didn’t have any plans to as of Thursday afternoon.
After the loss, Weber talked about hitting brick walls and the metaphor couldn’t be more fitting. In a cruel way, he looked as if he had literally hit a brick wall… multiple times. As he sat at the podium, his face beat red and his hoarse voice even raspier than usual, one could only hope someone has the decency to unplug the life support soon.
“We showed the video last night, we’ve done it before, a professor from Carnegie Mellon that was dying of cancer, and his view, approach to cancer and life and dying,” Weber said. “He talked about brick walls, and they’re in life not to stop you but to see how badly you want it. And we hit that brick wall in the game today.”
Unfortunately, the wall stopped the Illini. After Meyers Leonard hit a jumper to put the Illini up 44-37 with 14:15 left in the game, Iowa guard Matt Gatens responded with a three that started a 20-6 Hawkeye run. The Illini never really responded.
The truth is that Thursday’s wall was just one of many this season. Weber acknowledged the turning point of the season was the win over Ohio State. Usually wins like that are a positive turning point, but citing increased expectations and changed mindsets, Weber said it had the opposite effect.
“I don’t think it was really a good situation after Ohio State to have nine days off,” Weber said. “And then you had two byes in a short period of time and then all of a sudden you lose a couple close games. Grumbling starts.”
The grumbling has turned into loud cries from the Illini fan base now and Weber appears to be resigned to his fate.
“It’s very hard. I’d be lying to you (if I said it wasn’t),” he said. “Not sure why or what, but, well, I’ll talk when it all settles down.”
When it settles down likely depends on what happens with the NIT, but don’t expect Weber to be left in the dark much longer. At the very least, he deserves to be formally told one way or the other. The pressure and disappointment is clearly affecting him.
“I can’t explain to you how many people have contacted me,” Weber said as he fought tears. “I mean, literally, thousands. And guys I don’t even know.
“That part, it’s been pretty rewarding.”