Beloved.

What exactly does that mean? The way one would measure how a coach becomes beloved can be a slippery one to grasp.  While one coach may be nicest guy you’ve ever met, he may not win.  Another could be the most difficult person to be around, but if he gets you to an Elite 8, and minutes away from the first Final Four of a generation of fans, he’ll earn his way into  your heart.

After the departure of Frank Martin1, it beloved took on a new meaning.  And it got ugly.  Frank was a character. And it’s the story that everyone loved to hear. He became the head coach with no expectations, and exceeded everything that was expected of him2.  Frank left a fanbase as divided as it appeared his team was becoming.  Rumors of a program ripped apart by players who had grown tired of his shtick made it appear that Frank had taken the team as far as it could go and it seemed to be time for a change. He knew it. Currie knew it.  The players knew it.  The only ones who didn’t were the fans. So out goes Frank.

And in comes Bruce. He’d just been let go by Illinois after failing to live up to the expectations set early on with a run to the 2005 National Championship game3. And so people didn’t want Bruce. Why would you want a coach who had just been fired? Insane fantasies swirled around about coaches who didn’t want to come4, and announcers who did5.    So Bruce came. And he was greeted by protests and a fan base split between apathy and anger towards his arrival.

But time heals. Or at least it should.  The players seem to be happy with the change.  And while he may have lost a team and then lost his job in the end at Illinois, he brings along a 14 year coaching record winning over 2/3 of his games. He’s coached in the NCAA Tournament 8 times, and has Final Four experience.  While he’s never had to deal with that one sport wonder school to the east, he’s won 5 conference regular season and tournament titles. Whether those who are still angry want to see it or not… Bruce wins.

And it’s different. Gone is the sideline drama and the fear that one of our players may not survive the night. Weber coaches with a smile. He’s rumored to carry candy and soda in his briefcase. On a Kansas City radio interview he managed to rattle off the exact number of purple ties he owns, now that his colors have changed.  He’s a quirky guy. And he’s a nice guy. Even when he’s angry on the sideline you can see a hint of a smile.  Whether or not he’ll bring a smile to the face of the fans remains to be seen. There’s only one thing he can do to bring that on… And I believe he will.  Times  are changing for K-State basketball. Let go of the anger, and enjoy the ride.

  1. Place blame where you will.  I still find it amazing that blame, in the eyes of many falls solely on John Currie, when even the most die hard Frank Martin fan has to see that he has a personality that likely would never get along with any authority figure on a long term basis.  In real life, when a working relationship doesn’t work, it’s almost always a shared fault. []
  2. Except, of course, the Beasley year. People knew Beasley was a special player, but in our minds we thought that meant a Final Four, when a quick 2 game run was all we had in store for us in the Tourney. []
  3. A game I’ll always remember as the one that Orange took over. I’ve been to 18 Final Fours, but that was the only one where the fans of one team seemed to take over an entire dome. It was an impressive showing by Illini fans. []
  4. The day Bruce was hired I met Shaka Smart. I took a picture with him and tweeted that Shaka said he wanted to come to Manhattan but they never called. It was completely a joke, and I thought that was clear, but the anger on Twitter was strong with people who desperately wanted to believe Smart could have been the man []
  5. For some reason there are still people who think this would have been a good idea. INSANE. []

About The Author

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Mike is a '00 graduate of Kansas State University and holds season tickets for Football and Men's & Women's Basketball. He lives in Kansas City, but stays loyal to his Chicago sports (Bulls & Bears & Hawks & Sox). He's a social media marketer by day and dreams in purple at night.

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