Self checks pulse after Weber's Illinois ploy
Bruce Weber didn't mean anything malicious toward Bill Self.
Self isn't taking it personally.
But Weber's comments about Self that appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Monday had the Kansas coach questioning the odd motivational tactic.
Weber, the present Illinois coach, had had enough of talk about the former Illinois coach, Self.
So, Weber, dressed in black, walked into the locker room before the Maryland-Eastern Shore game Dec. 11 and announced that Self's funeral as coach was at hand.
"I wore black to tell the guys that it's over, it's a funeral of Bill Self in that he's no longer the coach here,'' Weber said Monday night. "He's no longer the coach here, so we've got to move forward and go on.''
"When I read it (Monday), I was laughing,'' the Kansas coach said. "My wife handed me the paper (the quotes were re-run in the local Kansas paper) and said you're not going to believe this. Once I did, the first thing I did was check my pulse and realized that I was still alive and said this is one funeral I'll delay as long as I possibly can. But I wasn't offended.''
Weber said he was tired of fans and the media comparing him and Self. He said he really felt the worst of it after the Illini lost to Providence on Dec. 9 in the Jimmy V Classic in New York. Illinois followed that with wins over Maryland-Eastern Shore and Memphis to go to 6-2, the last game without starting guard Deron Williams who broke his jaw and is likely out until Jan. 3 against Illinois State.
Weber then came up with the comparisons between the two coaches, saying he beat Tulsa when he was coaching Southern Illinois. The Salukis beat the Golden Hurricane 70-56. In 2001, his team lost by only three in Las Vegas to Self's Illini team.
"He's not coming back,'' Weber said he told the team. "Everyone kept comparing, us so if they're going to do that, then compare the teams. We took an Illinois team with three NBA players down to the wire. Don't say that he would have done this or that.''
Weber said the fans and the media were the ones who keep bringing up Self.
"Everyone said I need to stick up for myself, so I did,'' Weber said.
Self said he doesn't get into comparisons of coaches and said if he was worried about that at Kansas, then he would never move forward. He also said he doesn't allow his coaches to talk to former Illinois players.
"If it has happened, then I'm not aware of it,'' Self said. "I told Buzz Peterson when he took the job at Tulsa (after Self) that the kids are awesome, that I would do anything he would want me to help those guys. Unless I'm told to do something, then I would, but what's going on at Illinois is none of my business. It wouldn't be fair to Weber and his staff for me to get involved.''
Self said that comparison of coaches is part of any transition. Communicating is the key to getting over any adversity during the transitional period.
"I have no ill feelings toward Bruce Weber,'' Self said. "But his comments were a bit off the wall.''
"I've got no problem with Bill,'' Weber said. "All I was trying to say is that he's not coming back.''
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.