Daily Egyptian

Opinion: Former SIU coach Bruce Weber a work in progress at Kansas State

By Vahe Gregorian, The Kansas City Star

Even in the relatively immediate aftermath of Kansas State toppling then-No. 1 Oklahoma on Saturday, coach Bruce Weber apparently simply couldn’t please, or even appease, some people.

That’s why if you tried to get on the Internet on Wednesday at Bramlage Coliseum, one of the network options was, in fact, a profanity attached to his name.

Another was called “Fire Bruce.”

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This is the work of a few, or perhaps but one, detractor. And both the volume and scope of those complaining about Weber to the K-State administration has ebbed notably this season.

At least before a sense of momentum was punctured with an 82-72 loss to No. 21 Baylor.

From the top of the world, Weber said, to “lower than a snake belly.”

Offering a sort of testimony of his own after the game, Weber said, “You’re never as good as you think you are and never as bad.”

When you look at what he’s done at K-State, do you see a record of 76-48 and 32-23 in Big 12 play … or do you see a coach whose teams are 11-18 in conference the last two seasons since the program became more made over in his image with the passage of time?

When you look at what he’s done at K-State, do you see a team that is tied for the third-most new players (10, including seven true freshmen) in Division I and thus give him the benefit of the doubt through growing pains … or do you see a coach who just doesn’t seem to be able to get his team to play together consistently enough?

When you look at what he’s done at K-State, do you see a team playing in the best conference in the country whose 10 losses are characterized by nine to teams who were ranked when they played and whose game-planning and credibility with his players enabled them to beat OU … or do you see a team that just isn’t good enough and not getting better?

All of that sort of blurred together Wednesday at Bramlage.

K-State lumbered to a 13-point first-half deficit, scrapped back to as close as three points behind before halftime but ultimately unraveled because it couldn’t make a three-pointer (2 of 14), had a spree of unforced offensive mistakes and was often a step behind the quicker Bears.

This isn’t where K-State ultimately fancies its program, of course, but the litmus test is more clear for athletic director John Currie than the Rorschach test might be for fans.

When he looks at all this, he sees it through the measured and reasoned lens of the long haul.

He sees it with the understanding that there is flux in any transition, that it takes years to establish a foundation and a system and to indoctrinate players into a program, and that Weber is, indeed, building a program, not just a team.

He sees progress and the right trajectory.

When he looks at all this, he still thinks the same compelling things of Weber _ and then some _ that he thought when he hired him to replace Frank Martin: that Weber has integrity and fire and a nurturing way that is what we should all want in our coaches.

Weber hardly is perfect, of course, and we’re left to wonder Wednesday why his team came out either flat or unfocused for a game that could have established some important ground.

But Weber is much more than the silly stereotype of him that has lurked ever since he took Illinois to the 2005 Final Four with a core left behind by Bill Self _ an image that seemingly has been amplified in his record since replacing Martin.

He’s not someone who has merely prospered by his predecessors.

Remember, he took a downtrodden Southern Illinois program to a Sweet 16, and he also took four of his next six Illinois teams into the NCAAs after the 2005 Final Four.

More to the point here, he’s demonstrated an ability to recruit that some had doubted, reinforced by this fine freshman class that recently has been missing the injured Kamau Stokes, a point guard.

This was a crummy night in a tricky season, one in which you can still see what you want to see here: for better or worse.

However much room there might be for interpretation, though, Weber is a good fit here with ample signs of better days ahead … even if some won’t ever accept it.

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