Experienced College Coach Bruce Weber To Take First Turn as USA Basketball Head Coach
Bruce Weber has had such a successful head coaching career in his own right that it’s easy to forget he was once a longtime assistant under another legendary college coach, Gene Keady.
Weber was a graduate assistant under Keady at Western Kentucky University in 1979-80 and then followed Keady to Purdue University, where Weber served as an assistant for 18 seasons. Weber has since achieved nearly all there is to do in college basketball, but he’ll get his first chance to be a bench boss for USA Basketball when he leads the USA Men’s U19 World Cup Team this summer.
“It’s a nice honor and opportunity to be part of USA Basketball,” said Weber, who now coaches the Kansas State University men’s team. “I’m really looking forward to the challenge.”
Although this is his first time as a head coach with USA Basketball, Weber has worked with the national programs several times before as well. He was a court coach working with the 1991 Pan American Games Team and also worked under Keady on the 1989 USA Men’s World University Games team and the 1985 R. Williams Jones Cup Team.
“I’ve had the good fortune to be involved with USA Basketball in some different capacities,” Weber said. “I was Coach Keady’s assistant for a long time, and he coached the world (World University Games) team, the Jones Cup team, the Pan American team. He was an Olympic coach. And along the way I got to be involved as an assistant. I got to be involved in helping with the trials and as a court coach and different things.
“And then when I went to Southern Illinois as head coach, I got to be a court coach during the trials, and I was a member of the college basketball committee for USA Basketball for four years when I was at Illinois. I’ve just been involved. And the opportunity popped up (this year) and I’m just honored that the committee would consider me.”
Along with his brothers, Rod and David, Weber says he got into coaching due to their father, Louis, who encouraged his children to pursue teaching and coaching. As head coach, Weber has taken his teams to 13 NCAA tournaments so far. He began his head coaching career at Southern Illinois University in 1998, before moving onto the University of Illinois and now Kansas State, taking all three to the NCAA tournament.
That includes getting the Illini to the 2005 national championship game. He also was named National Coach of the Year that season in addition to conference coach honors in other years.
“The coaching career has just been very, very fortunate,” Weber said. “I love the game, and the game has been good to me. And hopefully I’m giving back to the game and the players that we’ve coached.
“… Forty years is a long time to be in Division 1 basketball.”
After taking over as Kansas State head coach in the 2012-13 season, Weber has led the Wildcats to two Big 12 championships and five NCAA tournaments.
Having coached more than 900 games as a college head coach doesn’t fully prepare one for coaching game No. 1 with USA Basketball, though. Coaching for USA Basketball can be a different experience from coaching college teams, Weber said. For one thing, you aren’t with the players nearly as long.
“I think the big thing is you have to stay with your philosophy, but you’ve got to be simple, because you don’t have a lot of time to put a lot of stuff in,” Weber said. “You’re talking really about a week once you get the team. You get the guys to play hard and get them to be pressuring defensively and using their athleticism and depth as an advantage against the international teams.”
The shot clock is also not the same as in college basketball, which Weber says can make a difference, especially since you need to get the ball up the court quicker.
Regardless of that, Weber is very much looking forward to coaching the U19 team. He says he has been talking with other coaches which has been fun as well.
“I just think it’s a great opportunity,” he said. “Obviously, it’s a big commitment for the players and the coaches. You’re taking three weeks out of your summer. But just to have the opportunity and the challenge it’s a bucket list thing to represent the country. If we bring back a gold, that’s obviously the goal. It will be fun. It’s going to be a hard, long stretch but like I said, you probably only have that opportunity once in your life to do that.
“… It is a big commitment, but for me, it’s once in a lifetime. To have that opportunity to represent your country is a very, very nice honor.”
The USA Basketball Men's U19 World Cup training camp opens Saturday (June 15) evening with 32 athletes ready to compete for a roster position. Stay tuned to USAB.com for all the news and developments during the training camp.