Bruce Weber referred to his hiring as a whirlwind of events, and a tired, yet excited John Currie showed that.
The Kansas State athletic director spoke passionately about a quick search that ended in the selection of Weber, a coach that received mixed reaction from fans and media alike when his name surfaced early Saturday morning.
Weber seemed like an off-the-radar candidate for the men’s basketball job, but in reality he was on Currie’s list almost from the start.
Following a press conference to announce the coaching search on Tuesday, Currie said he flew to Dallas to be alone in a hotel room, researching and making phone calls. By that night, Weber already had an interview.
“Late (Tuesday) night we made the decision that we had the opportunity to talk with Coach Weber,” he said Saturday. “I flew on Wednesday morning to Chicago, met with Coach Weber that afternoon, a lot more phone calls, all that kind of stuff. And then on Thursday, I went to New Orleans and spent the last couple days in New Orleans and visited with a number of different candidates.”
Weber indicated that the feeling-out process started even earlier than Currie’s timetable for contacting him, when Collegiate Sports Associates reached out to him Tuesday morning, prior to K-State’s press conference to address the departure of Frank Martin.
Currie credited CSA and Todd Turner with aiding K-State in the search and narrowing down Weber as the top candidate. Turner has experience in Currie’s position, overseeing numerous coaching hires as an athletic director at North Carolina State, Connecticut, Vanderbilt, and most recently Washington.
“Todd, as a former athletic director for 20 or 30 years, provided great council in terms of our situation and unique dynamics of it,” Currie said. “And (he) enabled us to quickly assert the prime candidates for our position.”
Before Currie even left for Dallas, junior forward Jordan Henriquez said he met with the players on Tuesday afternoon and asked for their thoughts on the coaching search.
“He asked us a couple questions about what we were looking for in a coach and what kind of style we like,” Henriquez said. “It’s important for us that we got give feedback.”
Weber and Currie met with K-State president Kirk Schulz in New Orleans on Friday, and finalized the job before midnight. Currie said they signed the deal on Camp Street, just blocks away from the Final Four. Weber coached Illinois to the Final Four in 2004-05.
Currie said he spent time talking to a number of people during the three days that led up to the decision to hire Weber. In the end, it was tough for him to find a reason Weber wouldn’t be a good fit.
“I worked really, really hard trying to find somebody who would tell me that Bruce Weber could not get it done, that Bruce Weber is not a good coach or that Bruce Weber’s got a problem or some other thing,” he said. “To be honest, the further I dug, the better and better it got, because I simply couldn’t find anything.”
Currie heard a number of outstanding things about the recently-fired Illini coach, including his down to earth personality — a man who walks his own dog and cuts his own grass. Weber alluded to it himself, saying he will be a man the community sees shopping for groceries and going to church.
It was search that Currie referred to as “exhilarating,” and one that took just 101 hours to complete from the time of Tuesday’s press conference to the announcement on Saturday afternoon.
Currie said speed wasn’t necessarily a priority, but Schulz said they didn’t want a reaction similar to the one at Mississippi State, where the fan base is losing hope in the midst of an ongoing three-week search for its new coach.
“Efficiency was a priority, our student-athletes and their welfare were the priorities,” Currie said. “But our priority was to find the very best basketball coach for Kansas State University.”
In an age of social media where secrets are hard to keep, the Weber-to-K-State connection never surfaced until Saturday morning. K-State names like Steve Henson and Tim Jankovich, New Mexico coach Steve Alford and ESPN analyst Doug Gottlieb were all mentioned as possible candidates.
Weber wasn’t exactly accepted with open arms in the world of message boards and Twitter feeds, but Henriquez said there weren’t many negative reactions from the team.
“Some people have negative things to say about him — I don’t have any negative things to say about him,” he said. “Overall, whether it’s Twitter, Facebook — people express their feelings and how they feel. I watched him growing up and I’m excited to play for him.”
Currie insisted keeping it quiet wasn’t the necessary goal.
“Secrecy is not a goal for the sake of hiding, we talk about transparency all the time, and this has been a process that starts with the welfare, well-being of our student-athletes and of our staff,” he said. “Coach Weber mentioned talking potentially to some of our staff members, and as I talked about the other day, this is a time of transition to everyone involved, so we want to be sensitive to all involved.”
Weber said he knows he has to win over the players, and then win over the fans through success on the court.
Henriquez said the team was impressed after its initial meeting with Weber, and while he might not be 100-percent sold on him yet, he will give the new coach a chance.
“I just met with him and I meet with him (Sunday), that’s not something that happens over night,” Henriquez said. “I’m willing to learn from him and continue to become a better player.”