Matt Painter has called Bruce Weber everything from coach to boss to adversary, so he has more stories to tell about Kansas State’s coach than just about anyone on the planet.
What is Weber like as a recruiter? What has made him a successful coach? What is the best part about working for him?
Painter, Purdue’s basketball coach, answered every question in great detail, rambling on about the fun times they shared. But his response is much shorter when you ask if he has anything negative to say about Weber.
That one is easy, Painter admitted. Weber doesn’t eat lunch, choosing to maximize every minute of his work day. When you work for someone like that, Painter said, you often go hungry yourself.
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“On my third day working for him (at Southern Illinois in 1998) I went to him,” Painter said, “and I said, ‘Hey, I will work a lot harder for you if you let me leave here and go get something to eat. I promise you, you are going to get more out of me once I get my belly full.’ ”
Weber laughed. Lunch was not forbidden in the basketball office. Painter simply assumed it was.
Besides, that’s not the complaint Weber expected to hear.
“He would help with camps,” Weber said of Painter, “and he always said I stuck him in the worst gyms to work the hottest spots.”
Both Weber and Painter chuckled about those stories Sunday at a Maui Invitational news conference. Their teams will face each other at 1:30 p.m. Monday at Lahaina Civic Center when K-State takes on Purdue in the tournament’s opening game, which will be televised on ESPN2.
They have played each other before, when Weber was at Illinois, but the friendship still makes the head-to-head games difficult.
“I had hoped we would play Missouri, with the K-State ties,” Weber said. “You don’t want to play against your former guys. We had some tough battles. I had to go against coach (Gene) Keady my first few years at Illinois. … When you coach and the ball goes up, your emotions are with your teams. But after and preparing, too, it is a tough thing to deal with.”
Playing Purdue has always been difficult for Weber. He worked as an assistant under Keady for 18 years and often references big victories and championships from his time there.
Though Weber first worked as an assistant coach at Western Kentucky, he got his big break with the Boilermakers. From there, he went on to lead his own programs at Southern Illinois, Illinois and K-State.
He gets sentimental every time Purdue is mentioned.
“In 1984 we were picked 10th in the Big 10 and we won the Big 10,” Weber said. “That kind of got us jump-started into all of it. In 1987-88, we won back-to-back Big 10 championships. Probably the most disappointing year was 1994 with Glenn Robinson. We beat Kansas in the Sweet 16 and went to play Duke, but Glenn got hurt. That was probably our best team, a Final Four team, but we never got there.”
Weber has high hopes for K-State and the current season, too.
He thought the Wildcats were playing well and showing off their talents until they managed just 60 points in a disappointing loss to Long Beach State on Friday.
Many of K-State’s best players — Marcus Foster, Justin Edwards and Jevon Thomas — were off. Looking back, Weber said didn’t they play with enough urgency in a road environment. He may use a different starting five against Purdue.
“I didn’t think we competed,” Weber said. “They took the game to us from the beginning, and we haven’t had great first halves. We are definitely going to have to pick up our sense of urgency as the season goes on.”
Painter doesn’t put much stock in K-State’s loss to Long Beach State. He expects a much stronger challenge Monday.
“I have a lot of experience with coach Weber,” Painter said. “You just try to get your guys ready. I know this and told this to our team the other day: You can sit around and talk strategy all you want, but if you don’t outcompete one of his teams it doesn’t matter what your strategy is, you are going to get beat.
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