On March 31, Bruce Weber was introduced as the 24th men’s basketball coach in Kansas State’s history. Weber will lead a team that returns all but one scholarship player this coming season. Here’s a Q&A with Coach Weber to help K-State fans get to know the new head man of Wildcat basketball.
Q: What are your thoughts of Manhattan so far?
Weber: “I think it’s a good Midwestern town, people are very, very friendly. Obviously they love K-State, there’s purple everywhere and it’s just a good place to live. If you’re a student seems like a fun place to go to school.”
Q: Is there anything about Manhattan that makes it unique from Champaign and Carbondale, Ill.?
Weber: “I’ve been very fortunate to be in a lot of college towns…as a dad and for having a family, I think it’s a great place to grow up, (it’s) great for family and to be around the university, there’s usually a lot of opportunities for your family. I think for me, Manhattan sets itself apart. The friendliness of the people — it’s been amazing how warm the welcome has been for myself, my family and staff. It makes you feel good, it makes you feel wanted and feel good about being at a place.”
Q: What is the most common question K-State fans have asked you, so far?
Weber: “I think the biggest one currently was, ‘Are all the players going to come back?’ That was the question being at most places. I think we’re going to be OK. I think we’re very fortunate to have a good group, an experienced group, a talented group, but I’m hoping that (the players) are all there and ready to go. If things go right, we should be one of the top 25 teams in the country, now you got to go prove it.”
Q: How is the construction process going on the Basketball Training Facility?
Weber: “It should be done by the time school gets going and we should be in there. The goal right now is late summer, late July, early August. I would say by the time we get back from our Brazil trip, August 18th, and when school starts that next week, we should be in there full go. (The facility) is a great selling tool for our basketball program, it’s going to be a great recruiting tool, (it has) all the bells and whistles you need for when the kids and parents come on campus. But just as importantly, it’s going to be great for our current players, both the men’s and women’s teams. It’s just a great opportunity for practice, to get in and workout and train. The players are excited, and we’re excited as a staff to have another thing to sell to potential recruits.”
Q: Have you and your team set a goal for the upcoming season?
Weber: “We’ve talked about taking some steps further than they did a year ago, that’s the biggest goal. In life, you’re always trying to get better and I think that’s the biggest thing. Are far as just setting goals right now, it’s going to wait to see how the summer goes. We have that trip to Brazil, which will be a great opportunity in late August, (we’ll) have 10 days a practice, get to know the guys, some games over there. I think when they come back; I’ll have a little better feel of what the goal should be as a team. But right now it’s taking what they did, a taking it a step further than what they did a year ago.”
Q: In the limited time you’ve been with the team, do you see a ceiling on what they can do? Is it sky’s the limit?
Weber: “I don’t know about “sky’s the limit,” but I think we have chance to be very good. To have a successful team in college, to me, you got to have experience, and we do have experience. We have four seniors that have all played, some of them major, major minutes. You got to look at Jordan (Henriquez) as one of the better big men in Big 12, and maybe in the country. And then Rodney (McGruder) of course, one the better swing players, big guards (in the country). He could be a preseason All-Big 12 Player of the Year possibly. But you also win in college basketball with guard play. You got Angel (Rodriguez) who has a year under his belt, you got Will Spradling who is one of the better shooters, and he’s also a good ball handler. Martavious (Irving) is an experienced senior. I think the big thing would be developing some depth. Whether it’s at the big guys with Thomas Gipson and Adrian Diaz, and then at the guards, who is going to be that fifth or sixth guard or swingman that can help us be successful.”
Q: What different coaching styles will we see between you and Frank Martin?
Weber: “First, Frank did a great job here, coach Huggins got it going, he reenergized the program, he got some talented players. He brought in a culture of toughness, defense and rebounding, we hope to continue that. We’ve always taken pride in our teams being very good defensive teams. When I was an assistant at Purdue, under coach Keady, he was one of the great defensive coaches. I learned a lot from him; my Southern Illinois teams were some of the better defensive teams, along with my Illinois teams. I also feel like, if you look for a difference, I hope offensively, we’re a little more up-tempo. We do have some experience; we do have some guard play, so maybe push the ball a little bit more and use our defense to create some offense.”
Q: From what you’ve seen, what are some of the major differences in Big 12 play to Big Ten play?
Weber: “I think there’s probably a little better athletes in the Big 12, not that the Big Ten doesn’t have good players, but I think you get a little better athlete, and I’m not sure why that is, whether it’s Texas influenced, a lot of (Big 12) teams have gone out east to get some of the prep schools. I think it’s a little more up-tempo in the Big 12, a lot of it is because of the coaches that have been in there a long time. (The Big Ten) very much a possession and defensive league. You have some of that in the Big 12, but it’s a little more athletic, a little more up-tempo.”
Q: In the limited relaxation time that you find, what do you like to do?
Weber: “One, I want to be around my family, as a coach you don’t get that opportunity much, you’re gone so much, your days are long and that free time is very valuable, you hope that you can really have quality time when you get those free days. But (my family) love the beach; I like the water, I like the beach and the walk, to just swim and to just relax. That’s my favorite thing whether it’s Florida or the beach in South Carolina, just get bikes and ride. Just kind of relax and enjoy each other. Ironically, people think I’m nuts, one of my favorite, relaxing things is to cut the grass. I don’t get to be outside much. I can get out and cut the grass and sweat a little bit, be out in the sun, and no one bothers me. People think it’s crazy, but I tell them I enjoy that.”
Q: What’s your favorite Wildcat Tradition you’ve learned?
Weber: “I just know the crowds are great, the cheers, the students being (right next to the court), the cheers that they have. I also really appreciate the relationship with Ft. Riley and the soldiers. I had a chance to go to Ft. Riley and saw the changing of the command. I hope to stay involved with them as a basketball program and I think they appreciate it, to have the soldiers at the games, that’s great. (K-State) has great fans, the student following, we hope we can continue them cheering for the Wildcats.”
Q: How excited are you that the Big 12 Basketball Tournament will remain in Kansas City, at the Sprint Center?
Weber: “Well, it’s a great advantage for us. We played Alabama there last year, we got Florida there this year, we hope to continue to have a game there over the holidays there every year. It’s a great advantage for our fans to be there and it’s a great venue. Kansas City is a great city, the Plaza, the arena, there’s a lot of things there for Big 12 Basketball, and especially for K-State.”
Q: Last question, will fans see a purple suit this season?
Weber: “Yeah, there’s no doubt. I was presented one at my press conference. Whether it’s that one or I find another one. I’ll pull it out for a big game, and then continue that tradition of wearing that periodically throughout the season, once or twice a year. I think it’s important, there’s a lot of pride, there’s purple everywhere. I’m just amazed how much purple there is; I went to one of my first events at an auction. I called my wife, I said ‘there’s purple dresses, scarf’s, skirts, anything you can think of.’ I didn’t know there was so much purple. We want to keep that pride and the school colors, and we’ll definitely support it.”