That was fast.
Barely four days after the departure of popular men’s basketball coach Frank Martin, John Currie filled the vacancy Saturday, naming former Illinois coach Bruce Weber to the position. He received a fiver-year contract starting at $1.5 million per year in 2012-13 with $100,000 annual base salary increases.
Some K-State fans may have had doubts. But in the Saturday afternoon press conference introducing Weber, Currie made it clear he had none.
“Our search was efficient and successful,” Currie declared almost forcefully. He recalled the commitment he enunciated to players earlier in the week “to do my best to find a coach that gives them the best possible chance to have a championship season.”
Following a search that took him to the solitude of a Dallas hotel room, then to Chicago, then to New Orleans, Currie said he concluded Friday night that Weber — fired three weeks ago by Illinois — was what he was looking for.
“We spoke to a lot of different people,” Currie said, including several potential candidates. But Weber, whose name surfaced early in the process, appeared always to be among the first rank. Thus the detour up to Chicago Wednesday for a face-to-face visit. In the end, Currie found himself untroubled by the fact that Weber’s tenure at Illinois had ended on an inglorious note, a 6-12 conference record and only his second failure to make a post-season field since 2002.
“I worked really, really hard to find someone who would tell me that Bruce Weber’s got a problem,” Currie said. “I couldn’t find anyone.
Reports out of Champaign Ill., Saturday indicated that Weber was also being courted by the University of Tulsa, SMU and Southern Illinois, where he coached prior to going to Illinois. Tulsa filled its vacancy Friday, hiring KU assistant Danny Manning.
Weber gave no indication he would attempt to replicate the fire and brimstone approach that became Martin’s hallmark. But he did commit to being visible in numerous other ways.
“I’m a real guy,” he said. “I’ll be in the grocery store; I go to church on Sunday; I’m going to be involved in the community.”
Currie said his various probes of Weber’s background uncovered one other things. “I learned he walks his own dog and cuts his own grass,” he said. That, apparently, is about to stop. “We’re going to get somebody to cut his grass for him,” Currie said. There will be no distractions from recruiting.
A lifetime basketball junkie who described himself as “twitching” through the last three weeks of relative idleness, Weber sounded less like a guy who was eager to coach Rodney McGruder than one who wanted to take him one-on-one. “I can’t wait until e get on the floor Monday,” he said.