Since the day he was hired, Bruce Weber has had less than full support from the Kansas State Wildcats fanbase.
Fans watched with held breath, some begrudgingly, as Weber was more successful in his first two years than any other coach in K-State history. He even shared a Big 12 regular season title and beat Kansas. Despite those things, whispers the past two years have grown into shouts this winter as discontentment bubbled into angst.
Well, wins don't lie, and Weber has 373 of them. That total is two fewer than Bo Ryan, tied with Charlie Spoonhour, 12 more than Lorenzo Romar and 37 more than Jack Hartman.*
*Interesting side note here: Regarded by many as *THE* coach in K-State history, time has been kind in fuzzying Hartman's actual .634 KSU career, which included six sub-.600 seasons in 16 years. His last four seasons: 12-16, 14-15, 14-14, 16-14. That's not to diminish the great years ... just an example of things usually not being as good or as bad as the perception we create. Weber's win percentage at K-State, by the way, is .632.
Weber also has an NCAA Championship appearance on his resume to go with five conference regular season championships and one conference tournament title. Those aren't flukes.
Still, others like to float out there that he ...
Let's be fair here. Before Marcus Foster flipped his lid, he looked to be one of the best diamond-in-rough stories in a long time. He should have been in the running for an All-Big 12 first team slot this season. And, Malek Harris is the first Top 150 player to join the program since Wally Judge and Rodney McGruder arrived in 2009.
And while there has already been a Michael Orris and Jack Karapetyan happen, that certainly isn't any worse than a Devon Peterson, Freddy Asprilla, Juevol Myles, Jeremy Jones, James Watson, Abdul Herrera, or even Judge -- all of whom came courtesy of the previous staff.
Even then, there are folks who love to throw out the ...
"Illinois history repeat."
It's not worth wasting more time here than to say this crazy narrative of history repeating itself, if you've ever truly considered it, is insanity considering just how differently each individual season plays out because ... life. Records may be similar in different years, but to think the same circumstances led to each record is a bit nutty - especially in this case where people want to consider different programs eight, nine or 10 years apart.
So, yeah, we can talk ourselves into the ground about wins, recruiting and so on. But, if those were the driving issues, then much of the disgruntled sentiment upon Weber's hire should have melted in the face of a regular-season conference title and continued NCAA Tournament appearances. But, it didn't.
Okay then... what is it?
Following the TCU loss, I took an informal social media poll asking fans what they wanted from their basketball program. The most common answer, stated in various ways:
What Kansas State fans, at their core, won't accept is a program that lacks accountability. They want a coach who buys in to leading a Kansas State team and is accountable to his players. They want players who buy in to their coach and teammates. (It was an interesting read when realizing this was more important than actual wins to more than a few fans. Remember, the question was simply: What do you want from your team?")
This year's team hasn't provided any of that, and it has rubbed raw a fanbase that sees a coach wanting to distance himself from things when they aren't going well.
Candidly, he might reserve that right considering sometimes it has been about the players not performing. But, also candidly, fans don't care. And Weber, unfortunately for him, can't expect people, or players, to buy in on a leader who publicly tucks and runs at the worst point in a fight.
That's not basketball. That's life.
And, that standard should be a warning to these coaches and players: You want Kansas State fans to accept and support you? Be accountable. No more coach distancing himself with repeated chatter about players lacking passion. No more seniors explaining that the team lives and dies by a single player. No more selfishness, tantrums or suspensions.
Be accountable for words, for actions, and to each other.
Where the issues started -- whether it was after Foster attended the LeBron James Skills Academy, or even back to the end of last season when the team sputtered, going 3-6 after beating Kansas -- aren't important now. The bottom line is nobody has taken credit for the mess. Neither the head coach, nor a single player has stepped forward to say "I was responsible," or "we need to fix this."
You want the other guy to be accountable? Be accountable yourself, first.
Weber was a resume hire - perhaps the best available selection at the end of an odd sequence of events for K-State Athletics Director John Currie. Weber's resume, if not his own situation, was solid, and he's been a reasonably fine hire for K-State so far. He's earned a pair of contract extensions for his results.
But, part of making the right hire is finding a good fit for the environment, and the coach has done himself no favors this season in trying to win over those who stay disconnected.
So, the big question is whether Weber is able to change. Is he willing to assume responsibility for all things regarding his teams, for better and worse? I said earlier I don't buy the history literally repeating itself thing, and I don't, but if Weber brought anything with him from Illinois and is using it here, it is his distancing quality.
It's a bad look, and if he wants to win some support back, or even remain at K-State in the long-term, losing that quality would be a great place to start.