The odds of Bruce Weber returning as Kansas State’s basketball coach hit an all-time low last weekend when Oklahoma blasted the Wildcats 81-51.
Then athletic director John Currie surprisingly left for Tennessee. Then K-State surprisingly beat TCU 75-74. Now Weber’s future is once again up for debate, much like his team’s NCAA Tournament hopes.
Suddenly, things seem more complicated than ever.
If K-State beats Texas Tech on Saturday, the Wildcats (18-12, 7-10) will finish sixth in the nation’s top-rated conference and be in contention for a spot on the bracket (even if it’s only Dayton). Win again in Kansas City and the Wildcats are probably going dancing for the third time in five seasons under Weber. A growing segment of fans want change, but that’s not usually considered grounds for termination.
At worst, K-State will finish with a winning record in the NIT. At best, K-State will reach 20 victories and Weber will win his first NCAA Tournament game with the Wildcats. As I pointed out last week, only one coach in Big 12 history has been fired after winning 20 games and reaching the NCAA Tournament -- Rick Barnes in 2015 at Texas. Only one coach has been fired after reaching the NIT -- Sean Sutton in 2008 at Oklahoma State.
Other than that, basketball firings in this league have all been easy decisions coming at the end of truly awful seasons.
Both of those moves were made by full-time athletic directors that appeared to know who they wanted to target as replacements. K-State is currently being led by acting athletic director Laird Veatch in a down coaching market. Brad Underwood would obviously unite K-State fans, but it would cost $8.5 million just to cover the buyouts involved, and then there’s T. Boone Pickens to outbid when it comes to salary. And Underwood would have to be willing to leave a team he is already winning with. So that’s a longshot.
I don’t sense much enthusiasm for other candidates. Maybe that changes during the NCAA Tournament, but even then the best available coaches are going to want to know who their athletic director is before taking a new job. Hiring a coach with an interim AD is tricky.
Weber’s odds of survival have already improved. Each win will carry more and more weight under the current circumstances. It will be fascinating to see how the next few weeks play out.
Now, let’s move onto your questions. Thanks, as always, for asking them.
I don’t know that I would go quite that far, but I do think both Currie and K-State could end up benefitting from this change.
Much like a coach who stays on the same job for eight years, Currie’s act had grown stale with some K-State fans. There is no denying he did an excellent job as a fundraiser. He transformed campus with state-of-the-art facilities in unimaginable ways and put K-State on par with most major programs. But there is only so much one athletic director can build. That phase of his tenure was over.
Guiding the football team’s transition to a new coach after Bill Snyder retires is priority No. 1 for the next athletic director. Making a decision on Weber and the future of the basketball team is priority No. 2. Conference realignment (the Big 12 has some important decisions ahead) is the biggest long-term priority. These are major tasks that a new athletic director might be better suited to handle.
Fans never seemed to like the way he handled other situations (Frank Martin, Bruce Weber, Brad Underwood, sportsmanship, court stormings, blocking transfers) and Currie was viewed by coaches as a micro-manager. Those were his drawbacks.
But he had lots of positives, too. Overall, I think Currie was a good AD, and he leaves the department in much better shape than he found it. He left K-State for a better job that pays more money. You don’t make an upward move in this business without doing something right.
But with new priorities coming to the forefront, a new face might do some good at K-State.
I exchanged some texts with Currie earlier this week, and he even wrote: “Laird is gonna do a great job and take it to the next level.”
Probably not. Currie raised $210 million in facility upgrades alone. I don’t see that ever being matched. But fundraising is no longer at the top of the to-do list for K-State’s athletic director.
Hiring an AD with the chops to hire great coaches and help them win is the new goal.
It will be a national search, and K-State has created an eight-person search committee to help along the way with hopes of making a hire later this spring.
You are right! Your prize: A trip to the First Four to watch Kansas State play another bubble team, which you will have to pay for yourself. I could maybe hook you up with the media’s WIFI password inside the arena for free, though.
Dayton is a very realistic destination for these Wildcats if they beat Texas Tech and then lose to Baylor/Iowa State/West Virginia in Kansas City.
The Big 12 has sent seven teams to the NCAA Tournament in three consecutive seasons, so a sixth-place finish in the nation’s top RPI conference should carry some weight. The Big 12 has also sent three teams with 8-10 conference records to the NCAA Tournament in the past three seasons. Beat Texas Tech, and K-State will be 19-12, 8-10. I don’t agree with Bruce Weber when he says that is enough to absolutely lock up a bid, but it honestly could be enough for Dayton.
The Wildcats probably need to win a game in KC and reach 20 victories to get an invite straight into the main bracket.
Here’s the way I look at it: One more win could be enough. Two more wins will be enough.
The problem K-State faces right now is that other bubble teams are starting to win. The bubble, though still soft, isn’t as forgiving as it seemed a few weeks ago. Wake Forest just beat Louisville, Illinois is on a tear, Georgia is winning, Northwestern, Providence and Seton Hall are trending up.
The more those teams win, the more K-State needs to win.
Dean Wade last led K-State in shots on Jan. 3 against Kansas. His 20-point game on 15 shots against TCU was only the second time he has led the Wildcats in attempts this season.
What will it take for him to do that more often? Wish I had the answer. Coaches and teammates have been on him to shoot for the better part of two years. Maybe he finally got the message. Maybe not. But he’s certainly at his best when he’s aggressive. He’s scored 20 points in three different games this season.
It’s possible a new coach would face a re-building task.
Barry Brown, Xavier Sneed, Kamau Stokes and Dean Wade all played as freshmen, meaning they each have a redshirt year at their disposal should they decided to transfer, sit and play two seasons elsewhere. I have no idea what those four players would decide to do, but they all seem to like Weber. Transfers are always a concern with coaching changes.
Texas Tech has the best court-side seating. West Virginia has the best upper-level seating. Everyone else is pretty much the same. We get seats with partially obstructed views behind the basket, which is totally fine. The best seats belong to the fans paying money to watch the games, not the media getting paid to be there.
Kansas has the best media room, but it isn’t much ahead of the rest of the pack. Most Big 12 venues have a solid room to work and conduct press conferences.
Of course, when I say “most” that means there are exceptions. And I hate to say Bramlage is one of them. K-State has by far the worst media room and press-conference area in the conference. I remember having a media session with Weber in the actual media room earlier this year. He walks in, looks around and asks us, “What is this room? It’s a dump.” He apparently had never been inside. But, again, it is totally fine. Not complaining at all. Media deserve nothing other than access to coaches and players for our job. Well, I guess we need power outlets and WIFI, too. But fans deserve the good seats and boosters deserve the good rooms.
That’s possible. He doesn’t strike me as a guy who likes to sit down and savor every bite of a Kansas City Strip cooked to medium. Maybe he even gets steak bites, so he doesn’t have to waste time cutting the steak himself. But I’m guessing he prefers ketchup over catsup.
Denim? How dare you! Who do you think I am, Rustin Dodd?
It’s a light blue oxford shirt from J. Crew. I used to like it, until now.
He seems to be handling his cancer treatment well, with his final session scheduled for March 7. The last few treatments are supposed to be the roughest. Hopefully, the next few days go well for him.
I tend to prefer mid-majors with gaudy records to power-conference teams with average records.
Definitely give me Wichita State over most of the power teams on the bubble. It’s a tougher call with Illinois State. TCU belongs in the NIT.
Kansas would be the smart answer, as the Jayhawks are ranked No. 1 and will win the Big 12 by several games. They know how to win close games better than just about anyone, and Frank Mason is clutch.
But they have rarely (never?) been dominant this season. So it wouldn’t be much a surprise if they go out in the Sweet 16. When you play everyone close, you’re vulnerable all the time. And they have a thin frontcourt.
Not sure who to say has better odds, though. Iowa State wins when it makes shots and loses when it doesn’t. Press Virginia is a one-trick pony. Oklahoma State is playing well, but Final Four?
Maybe Baylor has a shot. Johnathan Motley is really good and the Bears are playing both man and zone defense this year. Then again, they haven’t done anything in the postseason lately.
It seems like you could make an argument for and against each team.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett