Izzo on Weber
Tom Izzo has had some fiery reactions before when Big Ten coaches were dismissed, but today he had a lot to say in defense of his friend Bruce Weber -- with comments aimed right at Illinois AD Mike Thomas, who did much to damage Weber (and, arguably, the Illini) with some talk radio comments in January.
"I'm sick about it -- and make sure you understand the reason why. They beat us early in January and I beat Ohio State, and so I have three problems. Bruce is a friend of mine. He's been here since the Gene Keady days. He's done it the right way. He doesn't cheat. He mans up to his own responsibilities. Incredible, incredible person. I've recruited against him and lost and I've recruited against him and won, and hasn't changed things.
"Number two, we have to understand that we blame kids for a lot of things. Kids have changed. Now we have administrators that are pulling the rug under ourselves in the middle of January when you're 16 and 6 or 7 or whatever it was, and we publicly talk about -- we'll make decisions at the end of the year.
"I don't know what you guys think of kids because they haven't changed much, but if there's one place they've changed, they're a little more fragile. Not as many two-parent homes. Not as good a school systems that are holding kids accountable and demanding. And so now we put that on those poor kids? And then we're surprised that they lose 9 out of 10?
"I don't know who's beaten me the worst, probably Bo (Ryan), but second on that list -- and I'm canonized as something some of the time. I think it was ridiculous the way that thing was handled. And if I take abuse for that, I really don't care because I'm also the president of our association. This isn't about a friendship. This is about a profession.
"And whenever you're in an organization, whether it be yours, whether it be mine, or whether it be a business one, the only way you can be successful is if, top to bottom, from the president to the trainer, we're all on the same page, and that in five, six months you can determine something.
"I feel bad for the Illini nation because somebody's -- somebody pulled the rug out from under them. I feel bad for those players that have been there that, in my estimation, weren't given a fair chance back about the middle of January, whenever that famous statement was made.
"But if you look at that team from that statement, it went directly down. And I feel worse for Bruce because we lost a good soldier. And yeah, friendship is some of it, but it's not all of it. We lost a good coach. We got a coach that beat me and my team more often than not, and I just -- I can't figure that out.
"I can't figure out how you guys allow it. You guys are always figuring out the negatives of things. I can't figure out how you guys allow it.
"And my wife and I shed a tear this morning over it, and it was half for Bruce and half for my profession. But unless there's things -- and I will publicly state this -- that I don't know, but when I heard those comments back in January, it made me sick and I said there's a problem.
"And so I hope the administrators that made those statements have a good game plan, but you guys lost a good guy, we lost a good guy, and I think -- I just hope he gets another job. And I'm going to do everything in my power to help him.
"And I guess that's all I'll say because I'll probably put my foot in my mouth because if it was HBO, we could get at it right now and I'd really be fired up about it, because I just think -- I can't believe -- I can't believe nobody's looked at when those comments were made and where that team went.
"I mean, this guy has won more games than anybody -- percentage than anybody that's been at the school. And he's done it the right way, and that's not easy to do. And it's not an easy job there. And when a big time recruit’s father, I think -- watch what I say here -- comes out and makes statements, I mean, you better have a good idea the guy you're dealing with.
"And I know this. I've known Bruce Weber since the day I was a grad assistant. There's not a classier, better guy -- and I don't want to just hear he's a nice guy -- better coach. He's had some things thrown at him, too, with injuries and guys leaving early and stuff like that.
"So I'm sad, more sad for my profession than I am for Bruce because he's a man. I've seen him in his press conference. He'll man-up and he'll get it done. So sorry I had to gun on a soapbox, but I'll leave it at that."