Bruce Weber’s firing likely to generate a lot of unlikely replacement candidates


INDIANAPOLIS – What started as speculation this morning has turned into confirmed reports.

Bruce Weber, coach of the Illinois Fighting Illini for the past nine seasons, has been fired.

That shouldn’t surprise you, and neither should the impending rumors and unrealistic replacements that get Illinois fans excited and non-Illinois fans laughing.

Already names like Shaka Smart, Frank Martin and Anthony Grant are making the rounds, and while they don’t fall out of the realm of possibilities, they certainly should all be chased with a dose of reality before jumping to conclusions that this program will unquestionably make a splash when replacing Weber.

Simeon high school head coach Robert Smith may also be in the mix, which basically is a euphemism for “Jabari Parker’s chances for committing to Illinois just increased”.

What will be interesting to track in this developing story is what is deemed as a suitable replacement by Illini fans. A fan base that constantly complains about missing out on elite recruts from the Chicago-area, that same sort of distorted reality will likely carry over to who should be the next coach of their beloved program.

This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!

We saw this last season with NC State. Before they hired Mark Gottfried – an adequate and fair hire – Wolfpack fans were sure they would land a Rick Barnes or Sean Miller;  someone that would restore glory to their program. It didn’t happen, nor should it have.

According to reports, Weber’s salary in Champaign was $1.5 million this season. This figure exceeds the reported salaries of all the aforementioned coaches with the exception of Grant, but not by much. Martin rakes in $1.3 million a year and Smart – who will probably become the most coveted guy in this search –  just got a fresh new eight-year deal worth a reported $9.6 million to stay on as coach of VCU.

Already, the media is nudging Smart on his interest level, and already the vague canned answers are flowing.

Whether or not he can be lured back to the part of the country he grew up in, on the heels of grabbing an incredibly secure job in Richmond, is entirely undetermined at this point.  Would Smart even want to get involved with a program that will expect results from day one? Financially, he’s already been rewarded for his Final Four run.

Where Illinois thinks they stand in the hierarchy of college basketball, compared to where they actually stand, will be fascinating to watch unfold.  You and I think they’re “third cut” when it comes to program prestige. The Orange Krush think they’re “second cut.” Many schools have this problem, but it seems to abnormally pervade Illinois.

What the college basketball coaching fraternity thinks about Illinois, paired with the school’s budget, will be what determines Weber’s replacement.

Follow Nick Fasulo on Twitter @billyedelinSBN.

Louisville backcourt struggles in first scrimmage

Quentin Snider, Jerian Grant
Associated Press
Leave a comment

While a few teams did manage to hold special events for the official start of practice this weekend, most simply went about their business with drills and conditioning. One team that was the exception to all of this was Louisville, which held the first of its two intersquad scrimmages on Saturday. The Cardinals had a head start of sorts on the season, as they played six exhibition games in Puerto Rico this summer.

One hope heading into Saturday’s scrimmage was that guards Trey Lewis and Quentin Snider would have better chemistry than they did in Puerto Rico. But according to Jeff Greer of the Louisville Courier-Journal, that remains a work in progress for the Cleveland State transfer (Lewis) and rising sophomore (Snider).

They struggled in Puerto Rico, and they struggled again in Saturday’s Red-White scrimmage, the first public intrasquad practice since August. They played one half of the game together, paired with the presumed starting lineup with Mangok Mathiang out with an eye injury, a group that also included Damion Lee, Jaylen Johnson and Chinanu Onuaku.

That team lost the first half by 13 points to a younger group of Louisville players, and Lewis and Snider combined for eight points on 3-of-12 shooting, five turnovers, five steals, four assists and three rebounds.

“I thought (Snider) and (Lewis) did not play well together,” U of L coach Rick Pitino said. “They’ve got to get used to that. Neither guy made other guys better. That’s what they need to learn to do.”

As Greer also noted in his story the Cardinals have in recent years employed backcourt tandems in which both guards are capable of making plays for themselves and others. On the 2013 national champion team Peyton Siva and Russ Smith led the way, with Smith being joined by Terry Rozier or Chris Jones the following season and Rozier/Jones being the grouping last season before the latter was dismissed from the team.

Once Jones was dismissed Snider saw more time on the court, and his development was one of the keys for a Louisville team that fell one win short of the Final Four. Louisville needs him to take another step forward heading into the 2015-16 season, because even with Lewis’ experience at the Division I level Snider has more experience playing in Pitino’s system.

But while Saturday’s scrimmage didn’t go as well as anyone involved hoped, there’s still plenty of time for Louisville to work out the kinks before they open the season November 13 against Samford.

Knee injury sidelines Memphis assistant

Toronto Raptors vs Charlotte Hornets
Associated Press
Leave a comment

With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.

Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.

“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”

Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.

As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.