January 9, 2013
By Mark Janssen
As introduced in Tuesday's K-State Sports Extra, yours truly recently picked up the book "Bruce Weber: Through My Eyes," by Mark Tupper, which was a writing that detailed the historic 2004-05 season by the Weber-led University of Illinois basketball team that finished with a 37-2 record.
The following are some mini-stories on today's Kansas State basketball coach, Bruce Weber.
INJURY PRONE: Weber says he was sent to the emergency room "...17 times by the time I was 14 years old. I was constantly running into walls, twice I got hit by cars, and in baseball I came down on top of a jagged chain link fence. I was accident prone."
As a catcher, he said, "I was not as talented as I was tough. I was pretty aggressive. I loved the contact and the action."
As a high schooler, he had a slipped disc and cracked vertebrae, which put him in a body cast to realign everything instead of having surgery.
While his brother, Ron, was a high school quarterback, when Bruce suggested that he would like to play, his parents said, "No way. Not with my history."
BASKETBALL IN THE FAMILY: Perhaps it all started with Louie's (Weber's dad) passion for basketball, which included the start of the AAU-type Whiz Kids. Without question, hoops became, and continues to be, the common bond of the Weber family.
Ron, the oldest son, would become the head coach at Waupaca High School in east-central Wisconsin. David, the youngest, would become the head coach at Glenbrook North High School in Chicago. And Bruce continues to coach in the college ranks after stops at Western Kentucky and Purdue as an assistant, and Southern Illinois and Illinois as a head coach before coming to Manhattan.
'ORANGE KRUSH': At home Illinois games, it was a sea of Orange, which included the student section called the "Orange Krush." Weber himself got in the spirit wearing orange shirts, to even a brilliant oranger than orange blazer at one time.
TV analyst Steve Lavin once kiddingly asked Weber if he wore orange undies?
"I said, 'Not yet,'" laughed Weber. "The next day four pair of orange underwear were brought to my office. One of them had been embroidered."
WEBER ON WOODEN: It was during the historic 2004-05 season that Illinois played in the John Wooden Tradition tournament. Of the legendary UCLA coach, Weber says, "He's just a special person... all wisdom there. It's almost like going to church, to be honest. He has so much wisdom and knowledge about life. He's seen it and done it."
UNTIMELY FAMILY DEATHS: It would be hard to imagine a more unique first day on the job as Weber had at Western Kentucky as an assistant to coach Gene Keady.
Making a long story short, it was a hire that was made over the phone as the two had never met in person until that first day on the job.
The night before Weber's first day, his younger sister by 13 months was killed in a car accident.
"I walked into Coach Keady's office and said, 'Glad to meet you. I have to leave. My sister just got killed.' It was the craziest beginning you could imagine."
Later in life during the storied 2004-05 season at Illinois, Weber's team had just won the first round game of the Big Ten Tournament when he was told that his mother, Dawn, had suffered chest pains and was rushed to Chicago's Rush University Medical Center.
Weber's 81-year-old mother had suffered a ruptured aorta.
On her way to surgery, Dawn asked her daughter (Jan), "'Is my ticket still in my purse? Maybe I'll still get to come.' My mom was always a tough, stubborn lady."
Dawn Weber died during surgery on a Friday.
Under Weber's direction, Illinois won two more games for the Big Ten Championship. The next Tuesday he attended the funeral of his mother in Milwaukee, and then resumed coaching two days later at the NCAA Tournament in Indianapolis.
Illinois would win First- and Second-Round games over Farleigh Dickinson and Nevada, respectively, and then over Milwaukee and Arizona in the Chicago-based NCAA Regional semifinals to advance to St. Louis for the Final Four.
The Illini blasted Louisville, 72-57, in the first game, but then fell to Roy Williams' North Carolina club, 75-70, in the championship game.