Two Big Ten head coaches were relieved of their duties on Friday, both after losing in the first round of the conference tournament on Thursday. Illinois has cut ties with Bruce Weber, the Illini head coach for the past nine seasons. Several hours later, Nebraska athletic director Tom Osbourne announced the firing of Cornhusker men’s basketball coach Doc Sadler after six seasons in Lincoln.
There was much speculation throughout the last two months that Weber would not be retained by Illinois and those suspicions became reality Friday morning. Back in February, following a disappointing home loss to Purdue, Weber admitted that he had coached “not to lose” all season and apologized to a lot of people in what seemed to be a sign that his tenure was nearing its end. The Illini started the season out hot, jumping out to a 10-0 record and eventually finding themselves in first place in the conference at 15-3 (4-1). Then the losses started happening as the Illini finished the season losing 12 of their final 14 games.
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Weber never really found his footing in Champaign after his incredible run to the National Runner-Up in 2005. That season’s Illini finished the regular season with a 29-1 record, won both the B1G regular season and tournament titles and made a run all the way to the National Title game, only to lose to North Carolina. That was Weber’s second season as the Illini head coach. In the next seven years, the Illini made the NCAA tournament four times but only won 2 games and never made it past the first weekend. Weber was often criticized for losing control of his players, which often lead in disappointing seasons. He was able to bring a number of talented players to Champaign throughout his tenure, but never could put together a competitive team in the post-season.
Prior to the Illinois job, Weber had great success at Southern Illinois. The Salukis are looking for a new head coach right now, so I expect you will be hearing plenty about a possible return to Carbondale for Weber. All things considered, the idea is a good one. I am just not sure how true the rumors are at this point.
Doc Sadler has been in Lincoln for six straight seasons, but a disappointing inaugural B1G campaign in which the Huskers finished 11th of 12 teams was not good enough for AD Tom Osbourne. Sadler guided the Huskers to three NIT appearances over those six seasons but failed to earn them an NCAA berth. During his tenure at UNL Sadler had a record of 89-72 overall. In his lone season as a B1G coach, the Huskers finished with a 12-18 record and were eliminated by Purdue in the conference tournament Thursday night.
Before Nebraska, Sadler had two successful seasons at UTEP and lead the Miners to an NCAA appearance in 2005. Nebraska will be a much more coveted head coaching job now that they have joined the Big Ten. While Illinois is the premier opening in the conference (and the best open job in the country at this point), Nebraska certainly has the facilities/exposure/etc to lure a solid mid-major coach or major assistant.