TUPPER: Weber is likely done

2012-02-17T01:00:00Z 2012-03-13T21:38:27Z TUPPER: Weber is likely doneBy MARK TUPPER H&R Executive Sports Editor Herald-Review.com

CHAMPAIGN - If we've learned nothing else about Bruce Weber in his nine years as University of Illinois men's head basketball coach it's that he has a faulty filter when it's time to speak honestly.

Weber's honesty is what endears him to the media because in the process of speaking his mind he always shares insights - warts and all - and generally steers clear of the meaningless cliché.

He gives it to you raw and unwashed.

But none of us were expecting the brutal burst of honesty Weber uncorked shortly after Purdue defeated Illinois 67-62 on Wednesday night at Assembly Hall.

And by the time he was done talking - spilling his frustration in a speech that was filled with reflection, regret and apology - I could come to only one conclusion. As he stood to leave the room, I was watching a dead man walking.

Though he'll still be on the sideline a bit longer, in my mind Bruce Weber's coaching regime ended Wednesday night.

AD Mike Thomas won't make it official until sometime next month, after Illinois has lost in the NIT. But it's coming.

On Thursday, Weber tried to backtrack a bit, issuing a statement that mainly let us know he hasn't given up on this team. I know he wouldn't do that. But his comments Wednesday are an indication he realizes where Mike Thomas goes now that Illinois has won just once in eight games since its Jan. 10 victory against Ohio State.

In case you missed it, Weber 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 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."

Honest as always, the frustration oozed from Weber in a way we've never seen before.

Interesting, because Weber has occasionally talked about conversations he had with his closest coaching colleagues and often their advice was to be true to yourself. Turns out Weber turned his back on those valuable suggestions.

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.

It ain't happening, folks.

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 the job shouldn't have to fall to a freshman.

Abrams led Illinois with 22 points against the Boilermakers.

Illinois' nose dive through the second half of January and the first half of February is 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 widespread 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 replacement lists and vote for your favorite.

The events of Feb. 15 should make it clear: This regime is over.

mtupper@herald-review.com|421-7983

Copyright 2015 Herald-Review.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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