Bruce Weber and Matt Painter

By Gus Bode

Bruce Weber and Matt Painter

Former SIU head coach Bruce Weber, who took the Illinois position last Tuesday, led the Salukis to a 103-54 record in his five years at SIU. Matt Painter, Weber’s right-hand man, was named Weber’s replacement Thursday. Zack Creglow recently took the opportunity to sit down with both coaches.

Daily Egyptian:You realize that this was dead week? You two put us through hell.

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Bruce Weber:For kids, I think it is better that it happened this week instead of next week because of finals. For our players’ sake, it got done quickly and Matt was promoted. Now they don’t have that turmoil and they can concentrate on the rest of the semester. I think [the SIU players] are all at ease compared to the Illinois kids who had change and didn’t know what was happening. Anytime there is that unknown, then there is a fear factor.

DE:Coach Painter, what is the first hurdle you have to overcome now that you are coach?

Matt Painter:I think that whole transition of me coming here was the whole point so there wouldn’t be a hurdle. We are going to be doing the same things and our players are comfortable. Now they can take care of their finals, which is the most important thing for them right now. They can also get prepared for summer school. This transition really helped [the players] because I don’t have to hold a team meeting to talk about what changes this basketball program is going to do.

DE:Are you two going to travel together to [high school showcase tournaments] Nike and Adidas camp this summer?

MP:I don’t think [Weber] has to carpool anymore. We hit different routes. He hits [Interstate] 74 and I hit 70.

DE:Students and alums on both campuses, especially at SIU, want to know when Illinois is going to come to the SIU Arena.

BW:I’ll work on it. It isn’t going to happen this year. We are basically already done with our schedule for this season. The problem is that [Illinois] has one neutral game versus Missouri and has one big game in Chicago. The rest are home games. The best opportunity for us to play is Chicago. But I have to do something good up there before they trust me to make a move like that.

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DE:Coach Painter, are you going to hold Weber to what he said all those years when he was here? (Big schools being afraid to come to the SIU Arena)

MP:(Laughs) Well a lot of things have to happen first. There has to be a venue like he was saying with Chicago. We laugh about it and gripe about it here, but like what he said when he was at Purdue, you have to be smart about scheduling.

DE:Illinois has given you two gifts now, coach Weber. The first one with them taking [shooter] Sean Harrington over Kent Williams and now the job.

BW:The Kent Williams thing was that they didn’t have a scholarship. If so, he probably would have went there. Things happen for a reason and they happen for the best. For Kent, they happened for the best. I met Sean yesterday and he is a great kid and the teams won. But Kent was the stud. I truly believe, and I am going to push it, that Kent’s number should be retired. Sean Harrington’s isn’t. They also gave me a job and I am thrilled about it.

DE:What is the tougher venue to play in, SIU Arena or Assembly Hall?

BW:Matt played at Assembly Hall and I’ve coached there …

MP:Assembly Hall is tough. They are loud when the students are there. But SIU Arena is rabid and crazy with the students right on top of you. They are both tough places to play.

BW:It also matters how many people are here. If you get 6,000 or 7,000 people here, it is like a full house because it is so compact. The Orange Krush has always been brutal. They have this system where they talk about the players. They ripped me, coach [Gene] Keady, Matt. Bill [Self] did a great job there and I know they were up near the top for the longest winning streak.

DE:I think they lost to Michigan State.

BW:It couldn’t have been Michigan State this year because Illinois beat them by 4,000.

MP:It was the year before.

BW:So they started the streak over, but I’ve teased them up there that SIU’s was longer.

DE:What is worse, the Dawgpound against Creighton or the Orange Krush?

BW:The Orange Krush is more organized and they have been there a longer time.

DE:And without naked blowup dolls. (Both laugh)

BW:The crowd here just went crazy toward the end of the year.

DE:It is kind of odd that you guys will both coach in two of the ugliest arenas there are.

BW:And they’re both in Illinois. (Painter laughs).

DE:You Purdue guys just seem to run into these ugly arenas. (Both laugh)

MP:I think that you don’t get upset for what you have because that is all you have. I’ve been in places where you have a high school gym. Sure these are domes that were built 30 to 40 years ago, but they are still great places to play.

BW:If you worry about what you don’t have all the time, it just encompasses and controls you. There were a lot things we didn’t have, but we put up with it and did the best we could.

DE:But now you have the smell of manure to put up with.

BW:Oh my goodness. [Illinois] was so embarrassed when I went there. The winds were terrible and it was humid and the pig farm is right by the practice facility. I can’t count how many people apologized. I said, “Hey, I lived in West Lafayette [Ind.].” My kids thought we were in Terre Haute [Ind.]. (Painter laughs)

DE:Would you consider yourselves similar in your coaching styles?

MP:We’ll see. (Both laugh) I have not called a timeout yet.

BW:He has not done crap.

MP:[Weber’s] Sportscenter highlight was to watch me do something other than bark at him.

DE:[Weber], you going from “What’s a Saluki?” to people griping about Chief Illiniwek.

BW:I’ve been a Hilltopper, Boilermaker, a Saluki and now an Illini. No cats, dogs, tigers; it has been different each time.

DE:Both of you have had more media attention than you could ever fathom, how much more ruthless was the Chicago media than the local ones?

BW:A lot more. I know [the Daily Egyptian] has won some great awards and I think the staff here and I feel you have done it with a passion. In a way, I’ve read some of the columns and it seems like you guys were fans and now you are a part of all of it. I’ve said it before (laughs) that you guys were key in the [March 1] Creighton game. It helped create the hatred. You caused some controversy with some stuff over the season and I had to apologize for it. But with the Chicago media, they are very organized and I get all of this advice about no matter how nice I am, it matters if I win. People have said don’t even try to be nice to them.

DE:Coach Weber, what color were those boxers when media showed up at your house? No one can remember.

BW:[Excitedly] Blue. A couple of [DE reporters] backed up when I opened the door. I was trying to scramble to get a shirt on because I didn’t know what in the heck was going on.

DE:I heard it was an impressive physique. (Both laugh)

BW:I was holding back dogs, kids were screaming …

DE:Coach Painter, you and the Salukis are going to Norway for a tournament at the end of the summer, how much of the benefit will that be for you?

MP:That is going to be better for me than it will be for the guys.

BW:You are going to Finland and Sweden.

BW:The whole point to the trip was that you are losing Kent and Jermaine [Dearman] and to get some of the younger guys experience.

BW:Illinois is going to. Well, I’ve asked to go. Not to the same one.

DE:Well, with Illinois losing Big Ten Player of the Year Brian Cook and SIU losing Williams and Dearman, who is better off?

BW:They have good young guys and we have good young guys.

BW:SIU will be predicted to finish second or third in the [Missouri Valley] conference. Maybe fourth or fifth now with a new coach (chuckles at his own joke).

MP:No, that should work to our advantage with scheduling. I will call up all the guys who said no and tell them that Bruce Weber is gone and they hired some young guy.

DE:Coach Weber, I read that [sophomore-to-be] center James Augustine called you “hyper.”

BW:[Excitedly] I am hyper. Have you ever been around me? I am as hyper as a jackrabbit.

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