We had Illinois Wednesday night in its 67-62 home loss to Purdue. The Illini fit a number of late season profitable profiles I use, and they we playing a Purdue team with redemption after losing to the Boilermakers 75-60 on December 31. Yet the information below with the surrounding situations is an example of the problems that can persist within a team environment, and how a lack of cohesion, chemistry and unsettled coaching can lead to less than desired results.
Now on a 0-4 SU/ATS losing skid and losers of seven of their last eight games, it’s clear that the Illini (16-10, 5-8 Big Ten) are a “towel tosser” team with a coach that looks like he’s on his way out. Bruce Weber has passed on other job offers in recent years including the Oklahoma opening last March; reportedly $17 Million. In his 9th season at Illinois and six years removed from a Big Ten title and National Championship game appearance, the Bruce Weber era at Illinois appears to be over. Despite a genuine respect by his peers and support of his staff, Weber is now in a losing situation. The fans started to turn on him in the past few years and the pressure has mounted with less winning in recent seasons. Now the players have essentially stopped responding to him and there is discontent.
Following the loss to Purdue, Weber publicly questioned his players, and himself. Look at his body language and comments in this post-game press conference. These comments and tone from the coach are an example of a situation that has unfolded and often leads to further decline in player effort and performance. Bruce Weber has often taken accountability, and here opens the press conference with “…Sooner or later, the players have to take accountability and do things that they practice”. Coach continues, “…the sad thing, and this is my fault, instead of creating toughness and developing a team, I coached not to lose all year.”
While Weber takes responsibility and states “it’s my fault” a number of times, there is no doubt he’s frustrated with the players and surrounding situation. You can tell the end is near, and the pressure is mounting. “You’ve got to develop a culture and toughness, and the last three years all I worried about was winning instead of developing a culture. And that’s my fault, and it’s sometimes the kids, and we’re always coddling ‘em…you try to please everyone and not yourself.”
Look at the Air Force situation and coaching change earlier this month, as Jeff Reynolds’ fiery nature and intensity on the bench rubbed players the wrong way and led to his firing following six-straight losses. The players were not having fun and the coach had lost their interest and intensity. The players responded last game with an outright win at Wyoming as a double-digit underdog, proving that attitude and positive mental makeup can (re)create chemistry and cohesion that may have been lost.
Weber has proven he’s a pretty capable coach at Southern Illinois and now Illinois the past nine years. But it appears the time for change has arrived. The Illini have five conference games remaining with three of those against top-20 teams. While the lines will be adjusted higher, I’d still be very cautious supporting them down the stretch as it is clear the fight is gone.
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