Weber brings new mindset to Kansas State
by Nicole Auerbach, USA TODAY Sports
NEW YORK – College basketball coaches change jobs all the time, so taking over a new program was nothing new for Bruce Weber this offseason.
He’d done it before at Southern Illinois back in the late 1990s, and then again at Illinois, taking over when Bill Self left for Kansas in 2003.
In his third go-around, the new Kansas State head coach believes he’s figured out how best to approach the ever-challenging transitional period.
“We didn’t want to lose these guys,” Weber said this week as his team prepared for the NIT Tip-Off, which culminates today with its championship. “That was the first battle – to make sure they stayed. I had learned from the processes the last two times that you can’t worry about fans. You can’t worry about the media. You’ve got to worry about the players.”
First things first: Weber called All-Big 12 guard Rodney McGruder. Then the other seniors. Then he met with the whole team, attended summer workouts and even visited with some players’ parents.
“We knew we had some pretty good pieces,” he said. “If you can keep them together, it makes it a whole lot easier on everybody.”
Weber didn’t lose any key contributors from a team that went 22-11 last season, except Jamar Samuels, who graduated.
“He went about things in the right way,” McGruder said of Weber. “Within the first week when he was hired, he had single meetings with everyone. He did a tremendous job trying to interact with all the players.
“He really cared about the players’ well-being. The first thing he told the seniors when we met him was this was our team. … Some coaches, when they get the job, they really focus on the underclassmen – the ones they’re really going to build with in years to come.”
McGruder said the transition from Frank Martin – who left K-State to coach at South Carolina – to Weber has gone smoothly because players have bought into Weber’s system. That Weber’s practices are more player-friendly doesn’t hurt either. Players told the Associated Press during the offseason that Martin created a culture of fear within the Kansas State … [For more on Weber brings new mindset to Kansas State, click here.]