Mark Tupper's blog

When does Thomas act?

2012-03-04T15:56:00Z 2012-03-08T21:54:28Z When does Thomas act?Mark Tupper
March 04, 2012 3:56 pm  • 

I’m curious what your thoughts are, but we had a spirited debates before Sunday’s game at Wisconsin regarding how AD Mike Thomas will proceed, assuming that he’s going to fire Bruce Weber.

And I’m having a hard time finding anyone who doesn’t think that’s what is coming.

Illinois was as listless offensively in the first half as I can remember Sunday, falling behind 14-2, then trailing 31-15 until Brandon Paul hit a desperation 3-pointer that beat the halftime buzzer to make it 31-18. Illinois made six baskets in the first half – two of them 3-pointers by Sam Maniscalco – and was 6-for-24 shooting while falling into a deep hole.

Brandon Paul finally attacked the basket in the second half and finished with 22 points. But Meyers Leonard didn’t score a point until just over nine minutes were left in the game. He finished with eight points and 12 rebounds and the Badgers won 70-56.

But back to the original discussion: If Mike Thomas is going to dismiss Weber, when will that happen?

When he fired Ron Zook as head football coach, he did it the morning after the final regular-season game. That made sense because a bowl game was still five weeks away and it was important to get a new coach hired who could try to hold together a recruiting class. And that was “hiring season” in college football.

When Thomas fired Jolette Law as head women’s basketball coach on Friday, it was one day after her team was eliminated from the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament. That also made sense.

But should Illinois lose on Thursday in the opening game of the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament, does Thomas fire Weber the next day? Or does he let Weber guide the team in the NIT, IF an invitation is extended. Thomas is already on record as saying Illinois would accept that invitation.

I don’t see the upside in not letting Weber coach through the conclusion of the season. It would not delay Thomas’ hunt for the next head coach; that search has already begun, I’m sure, with preliminary third-party inquiries and some background work.

What’s the point in firing Weber then naming Wayne McClain, the associate head coach, to be the interim head coach for the NIT?

Imagine Illinois losing in Indianapolis on Thursday, Weber being fired on Friday and the team boarding a plane for an NIT destination on Monday? (Because of Assembly Hall scheduling conflicts, Illinois cannot host a first-round or third-round NIT game; only a second-round NIT game could be played in Champaign, although for the number of fans who actually might attend, the game could be played at Huff Hall.)

That would be one sorry, beaten-to-hell basketball team they’d be sending off to the NIT.

It’s Thomas’ call, of course, and I’ll be ready for a press conference on Friday if Illinois loses to Iowa in Indy.

There’s also been a lot of speculation about SIU’s interest in having Weber return to lead the Salukis.

I’m sure there’s plenty of interest on SIU’s part. They loved Bruce when he was there and had great success. And Bruce loved his time there. But I wouldn’t hold my breath for that to happen. Bruce is still very highly regarded nationally and, I believe, will get another head coaching job at a higher level.

He still wants to show he can be successful at that level, even if it means relocating to another area of the country.

I expect he will get another head coaching job, and will pass on the Salukis.

What do you think?

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