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Press Conference Transcript


GO WILDCATS
GO WILDCATS

GO WILDCATS

March 31, 2012

Athletics Director John Currie

Opening statement…
“Good afternoon and welcome back to Bramlage Coliseum. I do appreciate the sacrifice many of the media folks have made on a Saturday to get here. I know we have a number of our media that were in New Orleans covering the Final Four. We discussed whether we could wait for this process, but our No. 1 concern was for our student athletes.  We wanted them to meet their new head basketball coach just as quickly as they could and not have a lot of time elapse between our decision and this media opportunity.  So, I do appreciate your patience in that regard.  Five days ago we gathered in this room and outlined the parameters for our search for a new head basketball coach at Kansas State University.  We want a coach that will recognize the tremendous opportunity that is here at K-State and will have the ability to build a sustainable program that K-Staters world-wide can be proud of.  As we discussed Tuesday there were no pre-defined parameters in our search, other than assuring that the personal values and integrity of our next head coach would truly reflect those of our university and citizens of the state of Kansas. As your athletics director, my two most basic responsibilities are to insure the well-being of our student-athletes and the integrity of our program.  While we continue the long-term foundation of our program, as one that is sustainable and consistently capable of excellence on the court, we also recognize our obligation to the young men with whom I met on Tuesday afternoon in the locker room.  For our student-athletes here, there are several here, the opportunity to win a championship is now, not 10 years from now.  The opportunity to earn a degree is now, not 20 years from now.  I looked those young men in the eye and I promised them I would do my very best to find them a coach who would indeed care about them, challenge them, push them and develop them.  For our three rising seniors -- Rodney McGruder, Jordan Henriquez and Martavious Irving -- give them the best possible chance to have a championship senior year, and prepare them for their lives and careers after K-State. 

Those of you who know me well know that I am thorough person, and the vetting process for our candidates was indeed thorough.  Over the past three years, and certainly the last three days, I have sought out and listened to the opinions of countless K-Staters, former players of many eras, and generations whose perspectives and opinions have been invaluable in helping me understand the tradition of K-State basketball.  Through many conversations with and by our contacts throughout the country, Bruce Weber’s name repeatedly rose to the top of the list as a man whose personal values and integrity matched those of K-State, who’s experience and institutions similar to ours in strong mid-western roots, made Megan and he perfect fits for Manhattan and our extended university family.  In Bruce Weber, we introduce a man who in 14 years as head coach, has won over 300 games, battling night-in and night-out in two incredibly tough, and balanced leagues, while winning four conference championships, and advancing to postseason play 10 out of 14 seasons.  While averaging 22 wins per season, Coach Weber has led his team to postseason play 10 times, advanced to three Sweet Sixteens and of course, the 2005 Final Four.  A year, in which, he earned consensus National Coach of the Year honors.  I will add that over the last couple of days we have been in a Final Four city.  President Schulz looked at me yesterday sometime and said ‘John, I want to come back to the Final Four.’  So we have a head basketball coach that has been there and knows the route, and the path to that destination.  In his career, he has developed and mentored NBA lottery picks, like Deron Williams, Glenn Robinson, while developing lasting relationships with his student-athletes, which according to my source, brings a steady stream of former players into his office, practices, games and even showing up at the house throughout the year. 

Our search was efficient and successful thanks to the hard work of many. I want to thank each and every member of the entire K-State Athletics staff, many of whom scrambled this morning to put together this event.  I want to thank President Schulz, the K-State, Inc., Board of Directors, and many others who have assisted in this process.  I was grateful and fortunate to have the wise council and assistance of Todd Turner and Collegiate Sports Associates.  I am so blessed and lucky to have the constant support and thoughts of my wife, Mary Lawrence, and our three beautiful children, none of whom I have seen since Tuesday, until just a minute ago.  Thanks to our donors and fans, we have the resources to enable our next coach to build a consistent and sustainable championship program.  We are committed to the success of men’s basketball at the highest level, as a core tenant of our vision of a model in the collegiate athletic program.  I appreciate the patience of our student-athletes and Wildcat family throughout this process.  I am extremely proud today to introduce the new head basketball coach at Kansas State University, Bruce Weber and his wife, Megan.”

On speed being a priority…
“Efficiency is a priority. Our student-athletes and their welfare was a priority.  Our priority was to find the very best basketball coach for Kansas State University.”

On the role of the search agency and secrecy…
“Secrecy is not a goal for the sake of hiding.  We talk about transparency all of the time and this has been a process though, that starts with the welfare and well-being of our student athletes, and our staff.  Coach Weber mentioned talking to potentially some of our staff members, and as I talked about the other day, this is a time of transition for everyone involved.  We want to be sensitive to all involved.  For our student athletes, I do feel a tremendous responsibility for the fact that as they lay in bed at night or get ready to go to class, I texted with Martavious [Irving] the other day, he was getting ready to go to world geography or something like that, they are thinking about this.  People and their families at home are asking, and their fellow students are asking.  Resolving this with a successful conclusion at the most efficient pace possible was a priority.  For Todd Turner and Collegiate Sports Associates, I am fortunate that I considered a number of different folks that are in the college sphere in search of friends and people that have helped me develop in my career.  In this particular case, Todd, as a former athletics director, for 20 or 30 years, provided a great council in terms of our situation and the unique dynamics of it, and then enabled us to quickly insert the prime candidates for our position.  Then you do a lot of triangulation on your own with different sources and people that you trust. I was very careful to make sure that with any of the candidates, certainly including Coach Weber, that I had people who had a responsibility because of different relationships to tell me the truth.  I worked really, really hard to find somebody that would tell me that Bruce Weber cannot get it done, or that Bruce Weber is not a good coach, or Bruce Weber has got a problem, or some other thing.  To be honest, the further I dug, the better, and better it got.  I simply could not find anything.”

On the selling points of Bruce Weber…
“Based upon the number of people I heard from, some solicited, some unsolicited, our head coach truly does represent our values and integrity.  In true commitment and care for our athletes and their long-term development and a sense of responsibility and certainly his comments and his responses to the questions already about the overriding responsibility beyond basketball of a position like his.  It is also a position of extraordinary pressure, and there is no question Coach Weber, as he illustrated with two different examples, one of coming into Southern Illinois, and the other of following Bill Self.  Now he is living 80 miles down the street from Bill Self.  You better believe I asked him that question and he nailed it right off the bat.  Right then I knew we had somebody who would be a tremendous coach for Kansas State.”

On the last five days…
“After our press conference the other day, I left town later that afternoon.  First I met with our student-athletes.  I might with a couple members of our existing staff.  Then I got on a plane and went to Dallas.  Really what I needed to do at that point after so many things transpiring in the 48 hours previous to that, was be in a position in a hotel room, by myself with a telephone, with a lot of research and charts and stuff, try to focus on the process and the steps we had taken in the process.  Late Friday night, we made the decision that we had the opportunity to visit with Coach Weber.  I flew on Wednesday and got to Chicago then met with Coach Weber that afternoon.  I made a lot more phone calls and all of that kind of stuff.  Then on Thursday I went to New Orleans and spent the last couple of days there and visited with a number of different candidates.  I continued the constant opportunity to vet and listen, and hear.  Of course we certainly do things like NCAA background checks, they are very important to us, they are very thorough.  We have a method to do that from a couple different angles to ensure confidentiality and truth, and protect candidates too.  Certainly those things were really interesting.  One of the things we heard in that process, and I did not tell you this, I hope I do not embarrass you [Weber] that not only is he, this, this, this, this and this…but he is also a guy who walks his own dog and cuts his own grass.  That is one of the things I found out.  Now we will get someone to cut his grass.”

On the reaction to the initial feedback…
“I really have not seen any of it.  I have not seen much Twitter lately, I really just have been focused on the inputs and focused on my stuff, as related to my process and the different people that know basketball around the country.  Coach Weber said it best, we could have walked Dean Smith up here and they would have had a problem with that, because he went to KU.  I haven’t got much feedback.”

Head Coach Bruce Weber

Opening Statement…
“Thank all of you for being here.  I want to especially thank the players for coming on last second notice and I got a chance to visit with them.  For me it is a lot of excitement and a true honor to be here and named the head basketball coach at such an institution.  First, I would like to thank John (Currie) and President (Kirk) Schulz for intrusting me with the basketball program.  We got to know each other the last two days and it has been a whirlwind to be honest.  A few hours ago I was New Orleans thinking I was going to have gumbo and now I am up here in front of the mic, so I appreciate them and as I said they had the trust in me to run this program.  I thank my wife Megan. Thirty-one years of marriage to a basketball coach, you deserve a medal of honor.  I appreciate her and we had to pick her up and it was kind of crazy. I wish my daughters were here, but I know they are watching online.  My middle daughter, Christy, is getting married and they are in Chicago for their bachelorette party.  

So why K-State?  To me, it is for it tradition.  Some of the greatest coaching names in the game.  From Jack Hartman, Jack Gardner, Cotton Fitzsimmons, Tex Winter, Lon Kruger and Bob Huggins.  To some of the greatest player names in basketball.  Boozer, Blackmon, Henson, Richmond and Beasley.  You cannot go into a program if it has not been successful and continue that success.  That is one of the reasons I decided to come here.  Not to mention I had the honor to meet Mr. K-State, Ernie Barrett.  What a true loyal fan, he is tremendous.  Someone mentioned to me, "Who are the two people in this room that has been to the Final Four?  That would be he and I.  I appreciate Ernie and I had a chance to talk to him earlier and his wife, and I appreciate that they are here.  Another K-State graduate and my friend, Mr. Gene Keady.  For 32 years, I heard about Manhattan, Kansas and I have heard all about K-State.  Now I can really tell if he has been telling me the truth for all of these years.  He called me last Sunday about when he heard rumors about Frank Martin leaving, and he asked me what did I think.  He said that it is a great place to be and I would be proud for you to be the coach there.  I was with him last night before I met with John and the President.  He was excited and proud that I was going to come back to his alma mater. I appreciate everything that he has done for me through all of the years and the opportunity that he gave me. 

Now you have to continue that tradition.  The same way Coach (Bill) Snyder and coach (Deb) Patterson have done with their programs with strong values.  It is what I believe in and why I came here.  Values of loyalty, discipline, honesty, respect and trust.  Those are the things that my parents gave me when I was growing up though all of my years and it has been the basis of my life through all the time that I coached.  I know that it has been a major part of Coach Snyder and why his teams have been successful over the years.  Now you have to continue that tradition. Frank (Martin) left a good team.  He created a culture where the kids players hard and they play the game the right way.  Their hearts and minds were in the right spot.  So that gives me a chance, what John talked about, to take it to another step and that is what our goal is. 

Finally, we have tremendous fan support.  I was here the for the first game, opening day for Bramlage Coliseum [in 1988].  The score was 81-77.  I remember it well, the officials were horrible (laughter) and we lost.  From that day on, I could tell we have a great student section, one of the best in the country and great fan support and also great facilities.  The new basketball practice facility will be a great attraction for recruits coming in.  So you have a basis of tradition and a team that has a chance to be successful.  You have the fan support, facilities and you have a great league.  The Big 12, I know it was a little tense there for a while and we did not know if it was going to still be here, but it is still here and it is going to be here for a long time and it has a tremendous reputation and tradition.  I am proud to be part of this league.  So you add up all of those things, and it was a no-brainer for me to come and be the coach at K-State.  I could not be more proud.  I had chance to look at four or five different jobs over the last five days and the one that hit me obviously was this one and I am proud to be here.

I know everyone wants to know about my style of play.  Run-and-gun and jack up threes [laughter].  No, we are going to play a winning style of basketball.  My coaching tree, of course, goes back to (Gene) Keady and beyond that to Eddie Sutton.  That is based on solid defense and great fundamentals.  The same things that Tex (Winter) and Cotton (Fitzsimmons) did and all of the coaches through the years. That is why you have success.  Now I hope that if you play good defense, you can push the basketball, and run and get the easy basket.  So I would tell you, that it is going to be a style and philosophy of solid fundamentals.  I got into coaching to works with players and watch them develop. That is my pride and joy.  I cannot wait until Monday to get on the court with these guys and start improving and seeing if they can make that next step on the court.  It includes solid defense, which will hopefully create offense.

As far as the staff goes, I think that it is important that we have someone with a K-State tie on the staff.  I am going to make every effort to do that.  Each time I have taken over a program, whether it was Southern Illinois or Illinois, we have kept one of the coaches on and that is something I will look to, mainly, because I want to have somebody in there that will give me the lay of the land and knows the players.  That knows the league and can make it that much easier.  We will look at some of our former coaches and some that have been with me in the past.  Hopefully, it will be based on recruiting, which is the life of your program. 

I think for recruiting, we have to start with this state, a proud state of basketball.  We have to have contacts throughout the state and recruit the best players in the state and especially in the Kansas City area.  Make sure everybody knows about K-State basketball.  I think it is important to go into Texas.  The Big 12 has expanded, you have a lot of attention, you have a flight to Dallas, which makes it easier for the parents and recruits to come and see them play.  We have to continue what Frank and coach Huggins has done out east with some of the prep schools.  Hopefully, use some of my ties in the surrounding states.  From St. Louis into Illinois and the Chicago area and find a player or two to add to the program.  I am very proud to be here, could not be more excited. 

I know a lot of people saying maybe to take a year off or does he have the energy to coach.  I can promise you after two days, my wife wanted me out of the house and no one is more happy then her to know that I am going to be coaching.  It is something in my blood, I love it, I have the energy and the passion and I cannot wait till Monday to get on the court with the players and to next weekend to get on the road and start recruiting players to see who will be the next K-State Wildcat.”

On timetable of hiring…
“Besides Coach Keady trying to get me the job last Sunday, I got a couple of calls starting on Tuesday morning, which were some feelers just trying to get a feeling.  Then I got a call from Todd Turner and asked if I could scramble and meet with John.  I said I will doing anything possible to get there and then it has been crazy since then.  I had two good long meetings and got to know him and I think he got to know me.  Last night, I got a call that said we would like for you to become the coach at K-State, come on over to the hotel and we are getting on a plane.  It has been a crazy whirlwind, and I have to take a deep breath here, but right now we have a lot to get things done.”

On biggest challenge coming off of last year…
“I think the big things, is that we have a great foundation.  You have players that are in place with the three seniors.  When I met with them earlier, it is their team and their season.  Coming up for them is their last year, this is it for them.  So they have to take the role of the leaders and make sure the young guys are bought in and have the best season of their career.  I always talk to our guys about having their hearts and minds in the right spot.  That means that K-State is important and having success is important.  If you have those things, the individual accomplishments and achievements will come.  I think those are things that I am going to emphasize and depend on the players.  I am excited that we have won in all of the places that I have been.  I took over a program in Southern Illinois that was in bad shape.  In a couple years we were in the NIT and in a few years later we were in the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament.  I took over a program in Illinois that was in pretty good shape.  It had some pretty good players and a situation like this.  When you have a coach that was well-liked and had success, the most important thing is winning over the players and when we did that, we ran off two Big Ten Championships and two outright Big Ten Championships.  The first two years at Illinois and then went to the Final Four and the National Championship game, which no other coach at Illinois has ever done.  We have the foundation here and I am looking forward to it.  I watched them on CBS on the first round of the tournament, I told Rodney (McGruder) that I would put him up for the best performance of the tournament after that first game, so he has a lot to live up to.”

On what went wrong at Illinois last season…
“We had a young team.  Six freshmen and one returning starter.  We had eight straight games decided by four or less points.  We won them early and did not win them late.  The disappointment of a lot of close losses takes its toll.  It happens, we went through some growing pains, but ironically I was told that if we had won two games in the Big Ten Tournament, we would have been in the NCAA Tournament.  Our RPI was high, we had eight or nine top-100 wins.  Ohio State is playing today [in the National Semifinals] and we beat them.  It did not all go wrong, but there were some pretty positive things there.  I felt like we had a great foundation on young players and I felt we could have had a pretty good team in the future.”

On assistant coaches…
“I guess keep somebody on staff that has been here or somebody that is a former athlete that has K-State ties.  I think it is important.  Knowing the lay of the land and have the relationships.  I have done that before when I went to Southern Illinois I kept the Rodney Watson. When I went to Illinois I kept that Wayne McClain.  They stayed the whole time while I was there and both are great friends and people that have become very good coaches.  I think that is a possibility and hopefully I have a chance to sit down with them whether it is Brad (Underwood) or any other former players.”

On recruiting against Kansas…
“I had that experience at Southern Illinois where no one knew us and we had to honk our horn to get anyone to pay attention to us. Then 18 years at Purdue, a land-grant university just like K-State, we did not get the attention when we first got to there. Coach (Bobby) Knight was the coach.  He was a national champion and Olympic coach but through that experience I learned so much from Coach Keady.  He had chances in that time to leave, but he did not because of his competiveness spirit.  He liked a challenge.  We have an unbelievable rivalry with Kansas, which is one of the greatest in the country.  We had that rivalry when I was at Purdue with Indiana.  The fans love it, now K-State hopes to win a few more games here to make it a better rivalry.  I know that the guys have done better to make it a rivalry here the last few years.  It is a challenge no doubt.  It is the reason why I coach and why I came to this level to have a chance to be successful at the highest level.  I think that everything is here for that and have the passion to compete against the best.  Kansas is a pretty good team and they are playing today [in the National Semifinals].  Bill (Self) is a great coach and we are looking forward to that challenge.”

On winning over last year’s freshmen…
“First thing, I met with them as a team and tomorrow I will meet with them as individuals and we will get on the court on Monday, slowly but surely the way to develop a relationship is 1-on-1.  You communicate and talk with them to show them that you care, and get to know them and get to know them as a player and as a student.  That is why I started as a fifth grade teacher, my brother coached, I drove nine hours to interview with coach Keady at Western Kentucky and he was not there, I drove nine hours back and called him up on a pay phone, I said coach you were not there and he said come back down, well I do not have enough money for gas and I am working camp and he said 'Okay, I will hire you.'  I stayed with him for 19 years, it is a crazy story, it kind of shows you where life is.  The reason I got into coaching was because of the student athletes, my biggest pride and joy is to watch them and see their development.  I go back a ways and the former players have kids, they come to our camps and you watch them be successful in life, and that is your true legacy is about, what it is about is that they are getting degrees and they are being successful, hopefully they have a chance to play professionally and I hope that is what their goals are.”

On scheduling philosophy…
“As far as scheduling goes you want to win games that is the most important thing, you have to schedule to your team, we have somewhat of an experienced team, we have a summer trip already planned, so that is going to give us a chance to practice and play games in Brazil, which is going to help us and then if you have that background you can play a little tougher schedule.  I love the neutral games, if you have a good team you will play in the NCAA Tournament, you are going to play on neutral courts, so now to play in Kansas City and Wichita, you want to give your guys experience in playing all different styles of play from all over the country, you want to give them the chance to play in different types of venues.  Like Kansas City and Wichita, so when you get to the NCAA Tournament, there are no surprises, so I think those are great games, you want to be challenging, but at the same time you have to be smart as a coach.  I am 22 years old and coach Keady tells me that the most important part is scheduling, I have said coach it is recruiting you have to have players, you can schedule yourself into a bad season.  It is important with what you do with your schedule and it is something that if you ask your assistant coach that does scheduling, that it is the hardest part of our job.  It is important and it is something that we will give a lot of attention to.”

On being in a college town…
“That is why we made the decision to come here, my wife and I, this has been our life and we love it.  Part of my job at K-State is to be an ambassador for the University, it is important that we are involved in the community.  I think you will find out that I am a real guy, I am going to be in the grocery store.  I will be going to church on Sundays.  I am going to be involved in as many activities as possible, and that is what we love to do.  I hope the players are involved in the community.  I think that is so important.  It is a positive thing.  I think for football Saturdays, the community embracing the university, those are all the things you sell.  John had asked the players to write why they liked K-State and almost every one of them wrote on there because people care about them in the community and it seems like it is a family here and that is what is all about in the long run.”

On difficulties recruiting to Manhattan…
“The hardest part will be the distance.  I think that it makes it a little bit more difficult.  At Purdue, we had trouble recruiting, it was not easy, we were competing against Indiana, when they were at their ultimate.  You have to find the players that are going to develop, that is the most important thing, you are going to have to work hard at it.  The one thing I told John, I think if you ask people around the country, which head coach goes out more than anybody, and my wife will attest to it.  I have to be one of the Top 5 or 10 in the country in going out and recruiting.  I enjoy recruiting.  I enjoy going out.  I know it is the life of our program.  I enjoy basketball.  For the last three weeks, I have been twitching because I have not been able to go to games and watch kids because that is what I love, that is my life and when Megan and I talk, she said that she wanted me to be happy and she said when you coach that you are happy, so I appreciate her and her support and I am looking forward to the challenge.”