Illini's Weber gets right back to business

HILLSIDE, Ill. -- Bruce Weber was relieved the most trying week of his coaching career was finally coming to an end as he departed Proviso West High School for home on Saturday night.

Weber had an endured the worst loss of his Illinois career just hours before, losing by 23 points to Nebraska, but he still felt compelled to travel from Lincoln, Neb. to catch the nightcap of the City-Suburban Showdown. Simeon was facing De La Salle, and Weber has scholarship offers out to multiple players on both teams.

“It’s part of my job,” Weber said by phone during his ride home. “I went back and forth. I really went into today thinking we were going to get a win. I’d go there and feel good about it. And when we didn’t, I felt it was important to go and continue doing my job the way I’ve done it for the past nine years.

“I love basketball. I love watching kids, love watching games. I think today when we just got killed like that it was almost like a relief.”

In nine years, Weber had never experienced a week like his past one. It began with a 70-61 loss to Michigan on Sunday, continued with a 67-62 home loss to Purdue on Wednesday and ended with Saturday’s 80-57 loss to Nebraska. All together, the Illini’s losing streak reached five games, and they have dropped eight of their last nine to fall to 5-9 in the Big Ten.

The losses were just part of the taxing week for Weber. He allowed his emotions to get the best of him after the Purdue loss and talked freely about his players’ and program’s faults at the postgame press conference. He sent out a statement the following day explaining he had spoken out of frustration. He also dealt with questions all week about his job security and was even asked if he considered resigning.

“The whole thing, it’s been a nightmare for a week or so,” Weber said. “I guess there’s pressure… so many things flying around, coming at you. It’s just been a week of total mental stress. It’s hard to sleep. It’s hard to concentrate. It’s been a week of stress. There’s no doubt.”

Weber said he’s not experienced this type of stress previously in his coaching career.

“Not really,” Weber said. “My dad died. My mom died. Things like that. My sister got killed. Those things obviously are way different. But when you’re talking about your job, emotions, games, your players, all that that stuff, it’s definitely quite trying.”

Weber gave his team Sunday off before returning to practice Monday and playing at Ohio State on Tuesday. Weber was hoping to keep his Sunday light as well. He planned to attend church early in the day and would later join a fan who had won a charity event to have dinner with Weber and his wife. In the evening, he expected to watch tape of Ohio State.

Weber was exhausted physically and mentally as he returned home Saturday night, but he realized he has to find another energy boost in the coming days if Illinois has any chance of salvaging its season.

“I got to try to,” Weber said. “We just got to help to deal with the kids, help break through and see if you can make something out of it.”