Bruce Weber brings his ‘fire’ to Kansas State

John Supinie

CHAMPAIGN -- For a time, it looked like Bruce Weber was headed to South Carolina.

The College of Charleston searched for a replacement for Bobby Cremins, who retired after the season, and Weber apparently juggled the offer from Charleston with others, likely from Southern Illinois and Southern Methodist. Colorado State also showed strong interest.

Head hunters were calling, and Kansas State made inquiries when Weber finally knew which direction to head after a chat with his wife, Megan.

"She said, 'Do you still have the fire inside to be at the highest level?' '' Weber said.

He did, so Weber accepted the challenge at Kansas State, the small-market program in Manhattan, Kan., in the shadows of a big brother up the road in Lawrence coached by another former Illini guy, Bill Self.

When Weber returned to Illinois for the team banquet Tuesday, there were still plenty of details to finalize. Former SIU coach Chris Lowery was already hired as an assistant coach, and Weber has negotiated with former Illini assistant Jerrance Howard about joining him in the Big 12 Conference.

Looking back, a hectic week finished with Weber landing at Kansas State and earning $8.5 million over five years, added to the $3.9 million buyout from Illinois.

Rumors swirled on March 25 about Kasnas State coach Frank Martin headed to South Carolina to take over the Gamecocks, then Weber got a call from Gene Keady, his former boss at Purdue who is a Kansas State graduate. Two days later, Weber spent 13 hours working the phone. By the Wednesday before the Final Four, Weber was meeting with Kansas State athletic director John Currie in Chicago.

Weber drove back to his Champaign home, where he pulled "an all-nighter'' with his wife to prep their home for an inspection prior to sale, then left the following morning for New Orleans. There, he had job interviews scheduled, including one with Southern Methodist.

With interest heating up from Kansas State, Weber called former Illini guard Chester Frazier to investigate the status of Kansas State junior guard Rodney McGruder, a second-team all-Big 12 pick from Washington, D.C. Weber wanted to know if the Kansas State roster would stay intact.

Frazier had "to get a hold of Rodney McGruder without giving me away,'' Weber said. "Chester made some calls to all his boys in DC. Chester got back with me, and Rodney was staying. It seems all the guys are OK.''

After another meeting with Kansas State officials, Weber received a text message while sitting with Keady during a dinner sponsored by Nike on the night before the national semifinals. The Kansas State job was his. It's hard to say if Weber or Keady was more excited.

"I told him, 'Please don't tell anyone. I still have to talk to Megan,' '' Weber said.

Weber sent the contract proposal to his agent, who already was analyzing two or three from other schools, Weber said, before phoning his wife about the plans.

"I called her about midnight,'' Weber said. "I told her, ‘We're going to pick you up on a plane at 10 in the morning. We're going to Manhattan, Kan.’ She said, 'Where the hell is that?' ''

The next stop for Weber has its hurdles, such as powerhouse Kansas just down the road.

"I've been through that,'' Weber said. "Purdue and Indiana, and Kansas and Bill and the whole bit.''

So why Kansas State?

"I love the challenge,'' said Weber, who still has the fire.

John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnSupinie.