The bar was set exceptionally high with Bill Self's three years and Weber's subsequent success with Self's recruits. Weber has had a difficult time living up to expectations after the amazing run to the 2005 Championship Game. Weber's Big Ten record since the departure of Dee Brown & James Augustine after the 2005-06 Season was just 56-61.
Weber somehow had difficult time recruiting -- he missed on many huge in-state recruits. One miss that many will point to is Jon Scheyer. Scheyer played high school basketball for Weber's brother, Dave. The fact that Scheyer chose not to go to Illinois and won a National Title at Duke is not a good reflection on his recruiting. It was always a point of contention at Tournament Time seeing top Illinois high schoolers help Duke, Kansas State, Kansas, Memphis, Michigan State, etc. advance far into the dance each year.
Since then, Weber had stepped-up his in-state efforts only to get burned by the one-and-done Jereme Richmond (who went undrafted last year). In my opinion, Weber IS a very good coach, but the type of recruit he was "obligated" to bring to Illinois did not fit into his system. He is better suited to taking lesser talented players who will buy-in and play team offense. That is why Weber will likely wind up back at mid-major Southern Illinois where he will not have access to recruit the 4- and 5-Star recruits.
I like Weber and wish him the best, but it has been time for a change for a while now. His Illini teams frequently ran the shot clock down to nothing and forced shots. In bounds plays after a time-out were often executed poorly. Notoriously under Weber, the Illini have rated nationally in the 200's in FT attempts and -- I guess symbolically -- yesterday against Iowa, became just the 2nd team in 15 years (and 1st in the Power 6 Conferences) to shoot ZERO FT's in a conference tournament game. The whole culture of Illinois Basketball needed a shake-up.
As far as the administration goes, Illinois has a new Athletic Director named Mike Thomas. He has now hit the trifecta in his first year: He canned football coach Ron Zook after a 6-6 year where Illinois started 6-0. He canned women's basketball coach Jolette Law after 5 seasons where the Illini finished no higher than 8th in the Big Ten. And now he has canned Weber after a season where Illinois started 15-1 and finished 17-15 and live on the NIT Bubble. Thomas better be right about his firings and hirings because UofI has paid Zook a $2.6 Million buy-out, Law a $620,000 buy-out, and now Weber a $3.9 Million buyout. For a state that is quite shaky from a finance perspective, $7.12 Milllion is a lot of money to pay three people not to coach any more.
Public speculation has mentioned the obvious names as potential replacements: Brad Stevens & Shaka Smart. This board has mentioned Chris Collins. Thomas has past history with Shaka Smart: the two worked together at the University of Akron sometime between 2003 and 2005 when Smart was an assistant there and Thomas was the AD. Smart was born in Madison, WI and grew up in Wisconsin -- so he is familiar with the Midwest and Big Ten country. Also, Thomas may be under pressure to hire an African-American coach. Two Trustees voted against the hiring of Zook's replacement because there were no A-A canidates and the recently terminated women's coach Jolette Law is A-A.
I would not be surprised to see Illinois make a hard run at Shaka Smart and I would welcome it.
His style of play "Havoc" is what we don't see in the Big Ten.
Blue KevIL (formerly Illini Kevin)
Illinois's stature as a program -- which I suspect will be somewhat disputed here -- is also why I think this is a longshot for Chris Collins. It's great for him to get his name out there, but this is a heck of a big job for a first time head coach. It's a bigger step than Tommy, Quin or Johnny took in taking their first jobs, and none of those were smashing successes. If Chris or Wo wants to be the head coach at Duke someday, they need to show they can lead a program. Illinois would be a fantastic opportunity for Chris, but I suspect that it's too attractive and guys who already have that experience will end up more serious candidates.
FWIW, I'm an Illinois law grad (1998), and grew up going to Illinois games, and did regularly until I came to Duke for undergrad.
I live in Chicago, and everyone I talk to wants Stevens first (pipe dream), Shaka 2nd (likely), and Collins is nowhere in the Top 5. There are two reasons: (1) They were really hurt when Self left, and K is on the backside of his career. They worry that if Collins is successful, he'd jump for Duke in a second if/when K retires. (2) Illinois coaches have historically struggled in Chicago recruiting. It's a tangled mess to navigate. Collins is from the suburbs, he's not from the city. He wouldn't be able to just walk into Simeon High and get anybody he wants. In fact, being from the suburbs could make it harder.
It'll be interesting to see how one of Duke's top 2013 recruiting targets responds to this... 6'8" SF Jabari Parker, #1 in the class, hails from Chicago and IL /Weber was considered one of his leaders. In fact, Parker's dad recently put out a statement that they didn't want to see Weber leave IL, as they had established a strong relationship with the coach, and obviously that his departure would hurt IL's chance of landing his son.
I hope Chris gets this great fit/opportunity.
As for who Duke would replace him with, it seems obvious that they'd re-establish James as an Assistant Coach, as he just stepped aside to allow room for Capel to join the staff on the bench, but is still on staff.
While Illinois was one of Parker's leaders, I think most people -- even Illinois fans -- think that with Weber, he was likely to end up at Duke/UW/UK. What will be interesting is to see how the hire changes that calculus. His HS coach is lobbying for a college opportunity, and Illinois will have a staff to fill. Further, there's going to be some incentive for the new coach to keep Jerrance Howard on the Illinois staff. He's Illinois' best recruiter, and has been involved with the pursuit of Jabari.
If only Chris had a track record of recruiting success within the state. ...
Somewhat ironic that an event that greatly eroded Weber's support (he couldn't even land a local player that his BROTHER coached in high school) could give Chris the upper hand as his replacement.
There's some debate about Illinois' stature as a program upthread. Let me tell you what guys on the radio like to say down here in Saint Louis, and Illinois dudes, respond if you would.
Bernie Miklasz and Michelle Smallman (UIUC alumna) have been talking about Weber and that job all week. Illinois has some footprint here, about 10K alumni in the metro I think I read in the paper once. I was flabbergasted when I got here to find that, if you go into a random bar on Saturday in the fall, and there's one TV over the bar, it's as likely to be tuned to a Big Ten game as it is a Big XII game (not involving Mizzou). The Metro-East weighs in at about 700K people. At the very least, I think it's accurate to say we're in a border region between the footprints of the two conferences. (It'll be interesting to see how things change when Mizzou goes to the SEC). But still, there are way more Mizzou people here. The radio honks talk about Mizzou quite a bit, but have rarely discussed other schools in the Big XII, except with regard to the ongoing story about the potential collapse of the conference. I sort of think Mizzou's relationship to the SEC will be similar, like in a Neptune orbit. I have trouble believing Miklasz or Farr or Duncan or the other sports radio personalities will be talking excitedly about the Cocktail Party the Monday morning after. They'll be talking about what's wrong with the Rams, what's right with the Blues, or who the Cardinals are going to sign in free agency. Oh yeah and Mizzou played Vandy too.
Missouri and Illinois have a notional rivalry, but it's pretty weak sauce intensity-wise. Mizzou has dominated in football, but the football series is intermittent and there are no games scheduled currently AIUI. Even the name for the football series is contrived, the State Farm Arch Rivalry. Haha, "arch," that's so funny I just peed myself. Not. The basketball series seems more organic and serious, played more-or-less yearly, (there was a one-year break) with Illinois dominating, 20-11, though Mizzou has finally come around to win three straight. Mizzou people care a zillion times more about Kansas, and I assume Illinois folks are more into their Big Ten rivals.
So I'm not really a Mizzou fan and I didn't grow up here, but I've gathered the book on Illinois around here, perception-wise, is as follows. In both football and basketball, it's a good job, but it's not as good as you might think because the demographics are deceptive. What people down here like to say, but I've heard Miklasz say it the most, is that Illinois is really three states, Chicago-Rockford, Southern Illinois, and then a Central Illinois the boundaries of which are debated, but I-80 and I-70 are tossed around a lot. Southern Illinois had a history of Confederate sympathy, and people there have an abiding antipathy towards Springfield, where they feel their concerns are ignored, and towards Chicago, which is viewed as a big nasty corrupt city. And once you get outside the Metro-East, there's only maybe another half million people in Southern Illinois. It's not all that populous. People follow the Cardinals, rather than the Cubs or White Sox.
Chicago presents a different problem, which is that it's a pro sports town and hugely diverse. Sure, there are a lot of Illinois fans there, but so too Notre Dame and a bunch of Big Ten schools. Chicago is the capital of the Midwest. So what I've heard--I don't know how accurate this is--is that Chicago presents Illinois fewer recruiting advantages than the sports public supposes it ought.
So the basic story you hear down here is that, while it's unquestionably the flagship, and the school with the most fans in a state with 12M people, Illinois is sort of the University of Central Illinois when it comes to natural recruiting advantages.
As such, the sports blather guys around here regard Illinois as a good job that sounds great but is only good. Everybody and their dog recruits Chicago HS basketball.
The basketball program is pretty darn good, five final fours, ten sweet sixteens, although no national championships, quite a few Big Ten titles. 1600 and some wins, good for about 13th all-time. It feels like it should be in the next rung below UCLA-UK-KU-Duke-Carolina-Indiana; indeed, the win total is very close to IU and the win percentage is better. But it's probably not as easy to win there as everyone thinks it should be. Football's tougher. The win percentage is about 52%. Three conference championships since 1963. You say, dang, there's 12M people in that state. But it's been a tough conference and it just got tougher with the addition of Nebraska.
Anyone feel free to correct me if I'm off base here.
I should add, UIUC is an incredible research university.
Oh, PS. Ms Smallman says the fan buzz is all about Shaka Smart. Collins' name barely comes up. Us Duke folk have a way of making it all about ourselves.
A movie is not about what it's about; it's about how it's about it.
Some questions cannot be answered
Who’s gonna bury who
We need a love like Johnny, Johnny and June
---Over the Rhine
Illinois isn't alone in having a odd mix of cultures, and other states flagship universities seem to be a better draw in those states, but those universities have usually built that draw through better sustained success than Illinois has been able to have in basketball (or football). There have been moments where Illinois captured the state (and even the nation) with the Flyin Illini of 1989 or with the 2005 team that lost to UNC, but they've never been able to sustain that success to capture the state. Couple that with an utterly backwards and inadequate media strategy -- when I was growing up, I couldn't get regional broadcasts of Illinois football and basketball in the Quad Cities; Illinois sports are on a small, ultra conservative radio station in Chicago, having pulled the broadcasts from the biggest all-sports station in the region -- and you have a program that's done nothing to take advantage of the potential it has.
That's where there's a disconnect in perception I think. Illinois potential is somewhere near where Seth Davis places it -- in the Top 10 I'd say. But where it is as a program is below that -- maybe as high as 15, no lower than 25 -- because it's never come close to sustaining that potential.
Things have changed though, with the Big 10 Network increasing exposure and a new AD bringing Illinois' media strategy into the 21st Century. And now the AD's replacing a coach who resonated with the Central Illinois aspect of Illinois, but not much of the rest of the state, and that replacement, hopefully, will be someone who can present a product that can capture the state's attention and interest for more than a brief moment, and begin realizing some of the vast potential Illinois has as a basketball program.
Last edited by Chicago 1995; 03-09-2012 at 03:01 PM. Reason: Typos
I think of Illinois as two states, not three. If it's three, it's broken up more into Chicago/suburban Chicago/rural.
Anyway, no school owns the college sports market in the Chicago area. It's not just a melting pot for the B1g Ten, but fans from ND, Marquette, Mizzou, Kentucky and so on have a presence. Now this does create a void, and you'd think it's possible for some program to claim the high ground. There's even room for two programs, as there is with baseball and even the nfl with a sizeable contingency of Packers fans.
But the problems are that most people who care are already aligned with some other program (because they or family members went or grew up somewhere else), and that UofI isn't located in the Chicago area at all. They're not DePaul, not that DePaul is DePaul anymore either.
Chris should have no problem recruiting in the nicer suburbs, after all he does it already, but I'm less sure about the city and more urban areas.
You must spread some comments around before flaming the Moderators again.
Let me clarify about Chicago recruiting. Illinois does not need someone to "lock down Chicago". They just need someone who's competent enough to get a good player out of there every once in a while. There is plenty of D1 talent heading out of state. If they could pick off 10-20% of those, they'd be able to compete for Big10 titles every season.
I would concur with almost everything you posted.
The one exception being that Chicago and Rockford don't really have much to do with one another. I have lived in the Chicagoland area for 39 years and the perception I have always been aware of is that the state of Illinois is really two states: Chicago and its neighboring counties (Cook, DuPage, Lake, Will) and then you have the other 98 counties.
As far as Mizzou goes, I thought that they would have been a better fit in the Big Ten rather than the SEC. They seemed to be practically begging the Big Ten for an invite. The Arch-Rivalry is a bigger deal for basketball than football at Illinois -- probably because we couldn't win in football. The fact that Weber lost the last three years did not go un-noticed. The most natural rival for the Illini is Northwestern and that rivalry is not as heated as Mizzou. The other Big Ten rivalries seem to rotate -- no one school is consistently a heated rival for Illinois.
I would agree that Chicago is not necessarily the recruiting advantage everyone makes it out to be. Tom Crean had no trouble getting Dwyane Wade out of the south suburbs to go to Marquette. Thad Matta went to the west suburbs and got Evan Turner. The list goes on and on...
However, if there ever was a time & opportunity for that to change, it was immediately after the 2005 Runner-Up finish. That team was revered in Chicago and throughout the state. Around Chicago, any kid growing up 8 years ago playing basketball wanted to play for the Illini. The lack of consistent success extinguished any hope Weber & U of I had of "closing the borders". The same goes for football on the heels of a Rose Bowl appearance.
I think the Illinois jobs for football & basketball are good & very good, respectively. They both have the opportunities to be GREAT jobs.
It depends on the coach and what the coach can make of it. All-time Illinois Football is 563–513–51 (.522) -- this should be better. All-time Illinois Basketball is 1667-897 (.650) and holds winning records against all Big Ten schools except Indiana (83-84) and Purdue (84-95) -- the NCAA Tournament performances have not been to the level that Illinois is capable.
You can easily make the argument that their begging had a big hand in starting this whole realignment mess.
Andy Katz says:
"Duke associate head coach Chris Collins, who played at Glenbrook North High in Illinois, is also on a possible short list, although he would likely make more sense for Northwestern if that job comes open."
Not sure why anyone would think the Northwestern job would come open. Carmody is completely entrenched, and has the absolute support of the administration.
I also don't know if NW's position on admissions has changed since Tommy interviewed there. NW's rather strict stance on admissions turned Tommy off to that job, and I suspect would be an impediment to Chris if they haven't changed.