Mark Tupper's blog

Weber's post-game remarks make it clear: It's over

2012-02-16T05:57:00Z 2012-03-06T11:34:13Z Weber's post-game remarks make it clear: It's overMark Tupper
February 16, 2012 5:57 am  • 

AD Mike Thomas won't officially make his decision until sometime next month, but as far as I'm concerned, the Bruce Weber Illini basketball coaching era ended on Wednesday, Feb. 15.

It ended when Illinois lost to Purdue 67-62, a game the Illini absolutely, positively had to have. And it officially ended moments after the game when Weber delivered what sounded like a concession speech laced with regret and frustration for a coaching strategy that he admitted had gone badly amiss the last three seasons.

There's simply no way Weber can spin his post-game comments in his favor. He singled out Meyers Leonard and Brandon Paul for not having the proper accountability to do things the right way, and he singled out himself for having failed to establish a "culture" of toughness and accountability that are needed to have a truly successful team.

He blamed their actions, then blamed himself for not changing those actions.

"I don't have much to say," the normally chatty Weber began after sitting down in the media interview room. "Sooner of later they have to take accountability and do the things that they practice. It still comes down to myself and the staff. If they're not doing it, we're not instructing them well enough.

"Meyers (Leonard) can't have horrible body language. This is our desperate game but in the first half he walked up and down the court. We're not doing him justice if we don't make a change.

"The sad thing about the whole thing - and I guess it's my fault - is instead of creating toughness and developing a team, I coached not to lose all year. That's really sad."

Weber reiterated that point.

"Instead of developing people, I worried about winning. Maybe sit Meyers down three weeks ago or a month ago or two months ago. And Brandon (Paul). That's my fault. You have to develop a culture and I think the last three years all I did was worry about winning instead of developing a culture and a toughness. That's my fault."

And why would Weber not develop that culture when he said his successful Southern Illinois University teams had it?

"Because you're trying to please everyone instead of pleasing yourself," he said. "That's my fault, in hindsight."

Sure, Weber said "anything can happen" and they'll be trying to salvage some of these final five regular-season games. But the frustration oozed from Weber in a way we've never seen before.

With Thomas watching the action, Illinois lost for the seventh time in eight games. And only the most optimistic fans can still see a way Illinois can land in the NCAA Tournament.

It ain't happening, folks.

At 5-8 in the Big Ten, Illinois would need to win four of its final five games to finish at 9-9, which is thought to be an NCAA Tournament safe haven.

But those five games include trips to Ohio State and Wisconsin, upper division teams playing well, and a rematch with a Michigan team that beat Illinois on Sunday. The road game Saturday at Nebraska is no gimme and not even the home game against Iowa can be counted on.

Weber lamented the lack of player leadership and said the fact that freshman Tracy Abrams was the one who spoke in the post-game locker room only underscores that shortcoming.

"He's our leader and that's the problem," Weber said, indicating that the job shouldn't have to fall to a freshman.

Abrams led Illinois with 22 points against the Boilermakers.

On what was the most important game of the season, there were way too many empty seats, proof that a number of fans have already given up on this team.

Illinois' nose dive through the second half of January and the first half of February are the football equivalent of Ron Zook's 0-6 finish. Simply put, Weber is doing just as Zook did - making it too easy for Thomas to pull the trigger.

Thomas will tell you his decision will come after an evaluation following the end of the season.

I think the already negative feeling toward the program will only multiply now. Fans who were discouraged will be mad. Fans who were mad will be outraged. Fans who were outraged need to take a pill and settle down, because they no longer have to wonder how all of this will play out.

There is no mystery now.

Make up your coaching lists and vote for your favorite.

The events of Feb. 15 made it clear to me: This regime is over.



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