What’s next for Cats, Weber?

By Joel Jellison

Weeks before the season ended, acting Kansas State athletic director Laird Veatch said he’d wait until the season was over to evaluate the men’s basketball program and coach Bruce Weber.

The season is done after Friday’s first-round loss to Cincinnati, and an evaluation should follow quickly.

Weber has two years left on his current contract, and Veatch likely has three options: retain his coach under the current deal, extend him with a new contact or let him go.

Weber’s current contract pays him $2.15 million next season. The buyout if he’s fired is $2.5 million.

Veatch and K-State president Richard Myers reportedly traveled together after the game in Sacramento, California, to attend Saturday’s women’s NCAA tournament game.

Prior to Saturday’s game, Veatch told The Mercury he had no timetable for evaluating Weber and the program.

Much has changed in the time since Veatch’s statement was first made. The Wildcats were one game into a three-game winning streak, including a win over top 10 Baylor at the Big 12 Championship. That success helped K-State reach the NCAA First Four, where the Wildcats defeated Wake Forest to make the 64-team field as an 11 seed.

Coach dismissals are rare after a team makes it into the tournament field. In 2013, Tubby Smith guided Minnesota to the Sweet 16 before being fired. Texas Tech scooped him up soon after.

After Friday’s game, Weber told the media he hasn’t been told by anyone that he will certainly remain the coach.

“Oh, no one’s ever told me anything,” he said. “I don’t know anything. But I like K-State. My wife loves it here. We’ve got a good group.”

The Wildcats lose three senior contributors, two who started, and likely return five others who logged major minutes for K-State this season.

Weber said his priority is to find a veteran big for next year. Some might say he needs depth at point guard, but the Wildcats will have Cartier Diarra available next season after he sat out with a knee injury.

Weber has constantly dealt with a growing group of fans that seemingly lost patience before this season, and then grew louder and more discontent as the year wore on. The K-State coach has always just played it off as fans being fans.

Weber has three NCAA tournament trips and a Big 12 regular season title in his five years at K-State, but still there is growing dissatisfaction.

The initial qualification for the NCAA tournament and the First Four win over Wake Forest seemed to quiet a portion of the noise, but fans were growing loud once again after a 14-point loss to Cincinnati. No other Power-5 team lost by more than 11.

Weber came to K-State after a nine-year run at Illinois that included a national runner-up ended in him being fired. Similarly, the Illini fan base lost its passion for supporting Weber there.

Now in his third college head-coaching job, Weber hopes to retire at K-State.

“I love K-State,” he said. “It’s been such a good place. Good people. It’s a great place to live, so many positive things. We need a couple more players, and we need a commitment to it. But I can’t feel prouder about being part of the program.”

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