After one of the most embarrassing defeats in the history of Kansas State’s men’s basketball program, Bruce Weber spoke to fans, hat in hand.
“I apologize,” Weber, in his ninth season as the Wildcats’ head coach, said after his team’s 81-68 home loss to winless Fort Hays State on Tuesday. “I’m disappointed. No excuses. I’m the boss. I’ve been here. I’ve done really good things, but right now, this is not a special thing.”
Weber also asked for patience.
“I just hope (fans) stick with us,” he said. “We’ve got a young group. I’m very, very sure on Friday it’s going to be different and hopefully moving forward in the season.”
Weber started his postgame press conference pointing out the success the Wildcats have enjoyed during his tenure. Two Big 12 regular-season championships. A run to the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Tournament in 2018.
“We’ve got a great staff. We’ve won a lot of games here,” Weber said, before alluding to his accomplishments at Illinois and associate head coach Chris Lowery’s achievements as Southern Illinois’ head coach. “We’ve won a lot of games in our career. Now we’ve just got to figure out some different ways. Obviously, what we were trying to do did not work, and now, everyone’s got to buy in and we’ve got to figure some things out.”
Tuesday’s game initially wasn’t on K-State’s 2020-21 schedule. But after a contest at Butler — a game that was part of the Big East/Big 12 Battle slated to be held in Indianapolis on Friday — was canceled following coronavirus issues within the Bulldogs’ program, the Wildcats had an opening. Weber had wanted to find a Division I opponent. Instead, K-State settled on Fort Hays State, a Division II squad picked to finish seventh in the 14-team Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association this season. And one that entered Tuesday’s game 0-3.
It didn’t matter.
The Tigers dominated.
The Wildcats never led.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, K-State became the first major-conference team to lose a regular-season home game to a non-Division I school since 2000, when Texas A&M-Corpus Christi upended Texas Tech in Lubbock 86-80.
Despite Tuesday’s loss, Weber said he didn’t regret scheduling the Tigers.
“Obviously I didn’t want to lose when we scheduled it, but I also wanted to get some experience and playing time,” he said. “We had to figure out and learn something. You’ve got to learn from it. It’s not a good moment for us, but now we’ve got to take a step. Maybe we’re all humbled. Maybe we’ll all come together and we’ll surprise some people.”
That Fort Hays plays at a lower level in the NCAA didn’t make Tuesday’s loss any tougher to stomach, Weber said. Any time he loses, he said, “I’m humbled.”
All the Wildcats can do now is pick up the pieces and forge onward.
“I’m disappointed for the program. I love K-State,” Weber said. “But I’m also very proud of what we’ve done. We’ve got some young guys. We’re figuring it out. COVID is not easy. Injuries are not easy. We’ve got to figure it out as a staff.”