Mind you, this nomination, which was my idea and for which I take full responsibility, is a long shot idea. But we in the POAPS lab are not merely here to contend your most obvious choices, oh no, we are here to contemplate whatever is even remotely theoretically a good move. So.
Important Questions, In Rough Order Of Importance:
1. Has he coached teams that have won a national title, made multiple deep NCAA tournament runs, and/or consistently been highly ranked?
Yes. However, this does come with a qualifier: Weber replaced Bill Self at Illinois after Self left for Kansas. That was in 2003. You can place whatever value you want on a new coach riding the old coach’s players to success, but these are the facts: Illinois played for the national title in 2005, unfortunately disappointing the entire nation in the process, as the Illini lost to, well, you know, those guys.
In Weber’s first four seasons at Illinois, the Illini went to the NCAAs, and the ‘05 team won the Big Ten title outright for the first time in a half century. After that, though, it gets iffy. Overall, in nine years at Illinois, Weber’s teams made the NCAAs six times.
The story for Weber at K-State has been similar: basically, take over the program from a departing coach who left great talent, and don’t mess it up.
2. Has he built a program from the ground up?
Yes. Weber got his start at Southern Illinois, which in his first year went 15-12. By his fourth year, the Salukis were in the Sweet Sixteen and a top-60 team in the Pomeroy Ratings. That progress ultimately landed him the Illinois gig.
3. Has he substantially improved the program from when he took over?
Getting back to Kansas State (or Illinois, really), the answer is ... no. Weber sustained Frank Martin’s improbable run at K-State during his first two years, but the Wildcats have not been to the NCAA tournament since then. That’s a drought going on three seasons.
I would caution here, though, that at both Illinois and K-State, Weber basically walked into historically good situations, so his inability to improve on them simply shows that he is not god.
4. Has he succeeded at more than one head coaching job?
Three, actually! But we’ve been over them.
5. Does he have significant high-major experience as either a head coach or an assistant?
Whole lots, yes.
6. Is his team one of the best in its conference right now?
Nope. K-State is 5-7 in the Big 12 this season, good enough for sixth place. This is, however, the best K-State team Weber has had in a while: currently 28th in the Pomeroy Ratings.
7. Do his teams actually play, what is this thing called, "defense"?
Kansas State ranks 25th in defensive efficiency this season, which is no aberration for Weber. Over the last 15 seasons, Weber’s teams have finished in the top 50 in defensive efficiency 12 times. Dude gets it at this end of the floor, no mistaking that.
8. So how about offense?
The track record at this end is far more spotty, so if you’re looking for an anti-Gott maybe this is your man. His offenses at both Illinois and K-State have been really good early on, which probably reflects on the talent he inherited in both cases.
That said, it’s not that his offenses fall off a cliff entirely—in 2011, for example, Illinois finished 34th in offensive efficiency. His current K-State team ranks 45th.
9. Any indication that he can recruit McDonald’s All-American-type players?
At Illinois, Weber reeled in several top-100 players; at K-State, it’s been more of a struggle. Recruiting has always been a knock on Weber, but this seems a hurdle more easily overcome at NC State than in the middle of Kansas, which is in Kansas.
10. Does he have any connection to NC State, North Carolina, or the ACC?
None whatsoever. He is from Milwaukee and has never coached outside of the Big Ten/Big 12 footprint.
11. Any other random red flags or positives?
No NCAA troubles, no otherwise obvious off-court issues.
Would he be better than Gottfried?
Yep, just not in a flashy way—we aren’t going to be talking about top-10 recruiting classes, most likely, but I’m pretty confident that Weber would still generate better teams. Y’know, teams that are watchable and try hard and all that good stuff.
Would he take the job if offered?
Wellll ... no? I have no clue on this one. Bruce Weber is my crazy idea, and I ain’t the athletics director. One thing you do need to understand going into any coaching search, though, where applicable: who do you like that might also be interested in a fresh start? Maybe Weber falls into this category.
How would I feel if he were hired?
Weber has actually been coaching instead of working in television, so not too bad! Not great, but this isn’t the end of the world, either. Weber has proven that he can competently sustain a solid power-five program, but he has never shown evidence that he can elevate one. He is a good curator, but not a great coach. I don’t mean that as a knock against him.
How would the fan base as a whole feel if he were hired?
This would not be, in any sense of the phrase, a “sexy hire.” I think there is a case to be made it would be a pragmatic hire, but no one cares about that. Weber’s mixed track record is not going to impress State fans, and he’s a known quantity, which takes some of the emotional thrill we all secretly covet from these coaching changes. It would not start well. Might end up pretty good, though.