The coaching carousel: Bruce Weber fired at Illinois

(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Illinois fired Bruce Weber  Friday, one day after the Illini lost to Iowa in the first round of the Big Ten tournament.Weber will not coach in the NIT — if the Illini (17-15 overall, 6-12 Big Ten) were to be selected — or in any other postseason tournament.

Weber said recently that the buyout on his contract is $3.9 million.

Weber coached the Illini to the Sweet 16 and NCAA championship game in his first two years in Champaign, losing to North Carolina in the 2005 national final.

But Illinois hasn’t advanced past the second round since, and did not reach the NCAA tournament three times in Weber’s nine-year tenure.

VCU’s Shaka Smart is expected to be a candidate for the job. Smart, who took the Rams to last year’s Final Four, and Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas once worked together at Akron.

Weber becomes an immediate candidate to return to Southern Illinois, where he coached before replacing Bill Self at Illinois when Self left for the Kansas job.

SIU athletic director Mario Mocca has been monitoring Weber’s status, according to sources. Mocca fired Chris Lowery, a former Weber assistant, this year.

Once considered an NCAA tournament-caliber team, the Illini lost 12 of their last 14 games. Thursday’s 64-61 loss to the Hawkeyes sealed their fate, and they face an uphill battle just to be selected for the NIT.

Weber was 210-101 overall and 89-66 in Big Ten games at Illinois.

Coaching college basketball to me is an extreme mystery. The way these coaches move around is insane. Look at Pat Knight. Goes from Texas Tech to Lamar. Or how about Keno Davis from Drake to Providence and now is jobless. I don’t get why Illinois would fire Weber. I don’t think it was his fault. Throughout the season the team was a top 25 team and almost beat Missouri during the winter break. Sometimes people blame the coach more than the players and that’s why he gets the shaft. Now it’s time to move up the rankings again and see if he can get back to a top conference. Look at what Paul Hewitt did at Georgia Tech. Championship game team in the NCAA and good tournament runs and now goes from the ACC to the CAA in George Mason. What a life it is to coach college basketball. One year, you are talk of the town. The next, your job searching…

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