In a business where self-admiration and arrogance exists, Bruce Weber has maintained humility.
“Bruce is as good of a guy as there is in a business that is full of just incredible egos,” said longtime friend and Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings.
This is a common sentiment echoed throughout the college basketball world when people are asked about the new Kansas State head basketball coach.
“I’m friends with a couple of his former players at (Southern Illinois),” said Doug Gottlieb, a college basketball analyst for ESPN. “One of them told me that he’d never met a better man. He’s a good man and he’s a guy of his word. In the landscape of sports you don’t see that all the time.”
Weber is one of the leaders in Coaches vs. Cancer. The former Illinois head coach recently auctioned off the majority of his 72 orange ties, which produced $10,000 — all of which will go to Coaches vs. Cancer.
“He pours his heart and soul into the student athletes and their lives in not only teaching them basketball, but also life skills on how to succeed in the future outside of basketball,” said Brian Barnhart, who is the play-by-play radio voice for Illinois. “Over nearly 10 years, I don’t think I’ve ever come across a more humble, hard-working guy that will do things the right way. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.
“He’s very well respected in the coaching profession, he’s an extremely hard worker and one of the best people I’ve ever run across.”
On the court, Weber is regarded as one of the better Xs and Os coaches in the game.
“Most coaches say he’s a heck of a coach,” Gottlieb said. “What type of coach is he? His teams are very physical, play man-to-man, play hard and get up in the passing lanes. Offensively, he’s a motion-oriented coach. There are different kinds of motion but his is really spread out — it’s really a four-out, one-in. He likes those face-up power forwards. That’s kind of his style.”
But one of the questions fans are asking is whether or not he’ll be able to bring high-caliber recruits to Manhattan.
“The question is, are they going to get after it in recruiting?” Gottlieb said. “Kansas State has to go recruit. It’s not Illinois. Illinois you can get in the car, go drive and easily go see 10 top-100 kids. It’s not just Chicago — it’s all those small towns which are basketball crazy.
“You’re close to St. Louis, your neighboring states are all basketball-crazy states. Players are everywhere. That’s not the case at Kansas State, so you’ve got to get after it and decide where you’re going to go recruit and go get players. I think that’s the big challenge for Bruce. If they do it, they’ll win there for a long time, if they don’t, they won’t.”
But Stallings said recruiting shouldn’t be a problem for Weber, who is regarded as one of the hardest-working coaches when it comes to getting out on the recruiting trail. And that’s just one of the many reasons Stallings believes his friend will succeed in Manhattan.
“There’s been an upward trend with Kansas State basketball going on and I know his goal is to continue that trend,” said Stallings, who just completed his 13th season at Vanderbilt. “He wants to give the K-State people a program that they can continue to be proud of and one that they can be excited about. That’s what he’ll do.
“He’ll have the backing of the administration, which he already feels very, very good about — from the president to the athletic director on down. I’ve only talked to him one time since he got the job, but I was completely updated on how he felt and what was going on. They’ve really received him with open arms. The people are going to love him.”
K-State fans grew accustomed to Frank Martin’s demonstrative demeanor over the past five seasons. Some people were critical of it; others loved it. Weber is quite the contrast to Martin when it comes to that aspect of things, but they do have something in common:
“Frank Martin is a great coach and did some great things there,” Stallings said. “Bruce will have a much different style to it than what Coach Martin did. But I don’t think that matters, quite frankly. What matters is they have another great basketball coach at K-State.”