Kansas State has hired Bruce Weber as its basketball coach, turning to someone who once led Illinois to the national championship game to calm the waters in the wake of Frank Martin's departure for South Carolina.
A person a familiar with the situation told The Associated Press that Weber will be introduced at a news conference Saturday afternoon at Bramlage Coliseum. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no official announcement had been made.
Weber was fired by Illinois after going 210-101 over nine seasons, which included six trips to the NCAA tournament and a runner-up finish in 2005. The Illini went 17-15 and 6-12 in the Big Ten this season, prompting the administration let Weber go with three years left on his contract.
He takes over for Martin, who returned a once-proud program to national prominence after Bob Huggins' departure for West Virginia five years ago. Weber will be the fourth coach to lead Kansas State in the past eight seasons — and the third to cause some consternation among fans.
Huggins was hired still carrying baggage from his messy divorce with Cincinnati, while Martin was a nondescript assistant who had never been a college head coach.
Weber certainly has experience running a program. It's just that not all of it has been good.
He was considered one of the rising stars of the profession after taking Southern Illinois to a pair of NCAA tournament appearances, one of which ended in the regional semifinals. He then took over a program at Illinois that had been built into a perennial contender under Bill Self — now the coach at Kansas, just down the Interstate from Manhattan, Kan., and the Wildcats' biggest rival.
The Jayhawks were scheduled to play Ohio State in the Final Four on Saturday, just hours after officials at Kansas State were to announce Weber's hiring.
Weber had immediate success at Illinois with players largely recruited by Self, returning to the NCAA tournament his first four seasons. That included a 37-2 record during the 2004-05 season, which ended with a 75-70 loss to North Carolina in the national championship game.
The program began to slip soon after, though, and fans who had grown accustomed to winning began to sour. The Illini had a losing record by Weber's fifth season in charge, and despite winning 20 or more games the next three seasons, the program had faded from the national spotlight.
Weber never seemed entirely comfortable following Self at Illinois, and now he'll be matching wits with the Jayhawks' coach at least twice a year.
In fact, Weber had grown so tired of the comparisons to the uber-successful Self that he walked into the locker room before a game in 2003 dressed entirely in black. The quirky coach told the Illini that he was "going to throw a funeral. It's the end of Bill Self."
The idea was to somehow get across the message that the program had moved on.
That's exactly what Kansas State fans are being forced to do.
Martin's intense style and own quirks endeared him to many Kansas State fans. Of course, the winning helped with that — at least 20 wins each of the past five seasons, four of them ending in NCAA tournament berths, with a trip to the regional finals with Jacob Pullen in 2010.
The school's career scoring leader, Pullen grew up in Chicago and now plays overseas. He offered his blunt assessment of Weber's hiring via Twitter, even misspelling the new coach's name: "Bruce Webber didn't think I was good enough to play at Illinois and I don't think he is good enough to coach at Kansas State."
Others have praised the hiring of Weber, whose strong recruiting ties to Chicago will no doubt come in handy at a school that's forced to recruit nationally. Weber is energetic and personable, two traits that will come in handy as he attempts to quell a fan base wary of more change.