“Timing, degree and conviction are the three wise men in this life”, so says R.I. Fitzhenry.
None of those three things were in the works for Kansas State athletic director John Currie or any of the other Big Cigars at Kansas State this past week as they passed on firing basketball coach Bruce Weber and making the popular choice to pick former K-State player Brad Underwood. Underwood, who has been coaching Stephen F. Austin the past three years to an 89-14 record, agreed to coach Oklahoma State on Monday. An opportunity lost? Many vocal Kansas State fans think so.
Everyone associated with Kansas State likes to tout the “K-State family.” Even Bill Snyder wanted the stadium named not just after him but named the “Bill Snyder Family Stadium”. The “family” theme pops up often in the words of Currie and Kansas State President Kirk Schulz. That “family” has included a tradition-rich basketball coaching lineage from Tex Winter to Cotton Fitzsimmons and Jack Hartman, Lon Kruger, Bob Huggins and Frank Martin. Winners all.
Does Bruce Weber fit that image? Fit that coaching lineage? Part of that “family?” Many K-State fans don’t think so. Weber suffers under the perception that he is a good coach who doesn’t recruit so well. A good and decent man who doesn’t “build” programs but feeds on them. That he is a big winner with another coach’s talent but when left to recruit his own players, things fall backwards.
At Illinois Weber played for a national championship in 2005, mostly with talent that Bill Self recruited. In 2013, his first season at K-State, Weber directed the Wildcats to their first share of a conference title since 1977, mostly with talent recruited by Huggins and Martin. Weber’s Big 12 conference records in his first four seasons at K-State: 14-4, 10-8, 8-10 and 5-13. Not exactly the direction to keep K-State fans happy.
Meanwhile former K-State player and former K-State coach, Brad Underwood was making a big splash in the NCAA Big Dance with his Lumberjacks from Nacodoches, Texas. Underwood has never made any secret of his love of Kansas State and that he would love to coach there. He didn’t want to leave after Frank Martin went to South Carolina but he was offered only a demotion to stay in Manhattan so he followed Martin and eventually took the job at Stephen F. Austin and 89 wins later we have this controversy. Fire Weber-Hire Underwood. So went the tweets, texts and signs that were held up in Bramlage Coliseum.
Currie and Schulz feel that Weber deserves another year to turn things around. Underwood knows the value of timing. When big jobs are offered you’ve got to be ready to move and when T.Boone Pickens and his money moved in Stillwater, Underwood said yes to the Cowboys. For Kansas State it might be a version of paradise lost! Will Currie’s reputation ride on this “No Hire?” Very possibly. Jobs have been jeapordized for far less.
The words of Gary Ryan Blair, an author and motivational speaker, perhaps say it best: “You cannot afford to wait for perfect conditions. Goal setting is often a matter of balancing timing against available resources. Opportunities are easily lost while waiting for perfect conditions.”
Charles Tabler is a contributing writer from Larned.