Self, Weber finally meet on the court
TULSA, Okla. – During his first season at Illinois, Bruce Weber became so irritated with comparisons to Bill Self that he staged a mock funeral for his predecessor. That’s why no one was surprised Saturday when Self was asked to describe his relationship with Weber.
“We’re not close,” Self said.
That, more than anything, is why so much interest surrounds Sunday’s third-round Southwest Regional showdown between ninth-seeded Illinois and Self’s top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks at the BOK Center in Tulsa. As much as he wants his team to advance to the Sweet 16, Self would like nothing more than to defeat Weber in the first meeting between the schools since Self left Illinois for Lawrence in the spring of 2003.
Even if Self won’t directly admit it.
“The fact that we’re playing a school that I coached at, in my mind, isn’t motivation,” he said. “But I’m probably a little more amped up.”
Self led Illinois to two Big Ten titles during his three seasons in Champaign, where he coached such stars as Deron Williams, Dee Brown, Frank Williams and Luther Head.
“It’s emotional for a coach when he plays a school where there are still players that he has coached,” Self said. “If we had played Illinois … in that first or second or third year, it would be a little bit different. But it’s been eight years. It’s totally different. As time passes, those things kind of go away.”
Weber said he couldn’t help but chuckle when he saw this season’s bracket. Illinois’ first game was against UNLV, which is coached by former Illini coach Lon Kruger. Now he’s facing Self.
“We laugh about the NCAA always saying they don’t put any of their story lines into the matchups, but … ” Weber said. “It’s not about beating Bill Self as much as it is about beating Kansas.”
In his second season at Illinois, Weber reached the NCAA title game with a team featuring players mostly signed by Self.
“I wouldn’t say he’s one of my best friends,” Weber said, “but we have a cordial relationship.”