New Kansas State Wildcats head coach Bruce Weber has made quite an impression in his short time in Manhattan. Weber has led the #11 Wildcats to a 15-3 record, an impressive feat for a first-year head coach. But Bruce Weber is driven by something more than the love of basketball; he's driven by a desire to get his new team to like him.
"I really, really, REALLY just want these kids to see me as the cool coach," Weber said. "Because after my last marriage ended, I was so lucky to have found someone as terrific as Cattie. She means the world to me, and her kids mean the world to her. I want to keep her happy, so I'm going to be the best coach I can be for little Rodney, Angel, Will, Shane and Thomas."
When it was pointed out that Kansas State actually has 15 players on the basketball team, Weber seemed confused for a moment. "Yeah, she's got a bunch of them running around. It's hard to keep them all straight sometimes, especially the ones with weird names like Omari and Martavious. Wait, don't tell her I said that last part."
And Coach Weber has good reason to be especially conscientious of his relationship with his new players. "Things ended badly in my old marriage in Illinois, and there are still a lot of hurt feelings with that whole situation, Weber clarified. "Champaign was... she was a special lady, but we just couldn't work things out between us. To be honest, I don't talk to my own kids much anymore."
Weber then stared off into space for a few seconds, swallowed hard and choked back tears.
After composing himself, Bruce Weber defined his coaching philosphy, "It's really important to connect with the kids on their level. I know their old coach was a bit of a hardass, so I'm really trying to make my time with them fun. I don't want them to see me as some stuffy old coach, always yelling at them and trying to make them do what I want all the time. I want them to see me as a friend."
So far, Weber has pulled off big wins against Florida and Oklahoma State, taken his team out for ice cream, splurged on a day at the local water park for everyone and their friends and declared Tuesday practices to be optional.
However, the players themselves seem less excited about Weber's coaching methods. "He's a little weird," said senior guard Rodney MacGruder. "He's always trying to give us piggyback rides and handing out coupons for free hugs. I'm like, man, please do not put your hands on me, I barely know you."
But Bruce Weber is convinced his hands-on method will work, and the coach has even taken to picking up players after class. "It's all about quality time, showing the kids I'm there for them," Weber said. "When Angel or Shane sees me pull up to the curb in my sweet ride, Seger pumping on the stereo, they KNOW they're in for a treat. Who else but cool coach Bruce would let them drink soda in his fresh new 'Lantra?"
"Yeah, he loves that car," junior guard Will Spradling confirmed. "I don't really know why, it's a 2008 Hyundai sedan. But he's always going on about the horsepower and the mileage and how it's 'Best in Class' and whatnot. I'm pretty sure my grandpa drives the same thing, and he only likes it 'cause it gets him to the racetrack in one piece."
"Now (former coach Frank) Martin, HE was cool," Spradling continued. "First time I met him, he rolled up to my school in a Mercedes with a roll of hundreds poking out of his suit pocket. Yeah, he yelled a lot and I think he may have had Wally Judge killed, but everybody on the team respected him. Not like this new guy, Papa McFlopsweat or whatever"
If Bruce Weber has heard these grumblings from his players, he seems undaunted. "Look, I know it's going to take some time," he admitted. "Relationships with kids are built on three pillars: Consistency, free candy and constant begging for approval."
"I know I'm not perfect," Weber added. "But as god as my witness, I will NOT have another failed marriage on my hands. These kids are going to like me, I can feel it."
As of press time, a survey of the Kansas State locker room found that every player completely hates Weber and wishes that Frank Martin would just move back home already.