2.20.2007

Time for a change at the top

When Jamar Smith arrived on campus as a green freshman, I had a certain mental image of him that formed as a result of a couple articles I had read about him shortly after he had his break-out game against Memphis. The image was of a kid who was so determined to become the best basketball player he could be that he spent hour after hour, night after night, shooting jump shots in a rec center gym. He displayed a track record of discipline, drive, and determination. He hadn't been a highly-recruited high school player, yet he turned himself into a success story: all of a sudden, against immense competition, he couldn't miss a three-point shot. He was showing that he could raise his game to another level. So, how did this kid turn into such a mess in a little over a year? That's the question we need to find an answer to right now. While everyone debates what his punishment should be, I'd rather focus on how this basketball program has fallen from grace under Bruce Weber's watch.

I'm all for second chances. But in the case of Jamar Smith, his second chance needs to come at his hometown Bradley University, or some other college. He needs to lose his UI scholarship. No ifs, ands, or buts. He's out. Now.

The sort of unhealthy behavior Jamar demonstrated has been infecting this Illini team for some time, as we all know. From the burglary to the previous DUI to spitting on bouncers, this team has been spiraling out of control for some time. Of course, significant blame resides with the players. They are ultimately responsible for their actions. But what concerns me isn't that a group of college kids have made considerably poor decisions -- that's to be expected. It's that there doesn't appear to be a culture surrounding this team of helping each other to learn from mistakes and steer clear of trouble. For that reason, I blame Weber. The kids aren't responding to him, and he isn't making his point clearly. (Case in point: McBride's six-game suspension for a DUI -- a mere slap on the wrist if that -- doesn't lead to better behavior from the team; instead it leads to another, more serious, DUI.) Leadership begins at the top, and clearly Weber needs to increase his effort in this regard. He needs to get control of his team. Now.

Additional details from the police report indicate that multiple players are also at fault in this particular incident. It's quite possible that fellow Illini players were also drinking at this party, might have supplied the alcohol, and also made significantly poor judgments in both allowing Jamar to drive, and how they responded to the wreck. (Update: other Illini members were likely NOT drinking, but did make poor decisions post-wreck. Chet Frazier has been named.) If any of that turns out to be true -- and I'm down suspending my gut feelings on matters of UI basketball -- then those players need to be outed by the school and basketball program, before the police do Weber's job for him. Those players need to serve lengthy suspensions. Not during next season's pre-season schedule. Now.

I'm tired of the leadership of this program sending mixed messages to the team, as well as the fans of all ages who follow the team. Stop taking this shit too lightly, and start making lasting impressions. How did a gym rat with little trouble in his past end up with two felony charges on his record? And what is Bruce Weber going to do to change the culture that helped to create such a situation? Is he the right man to make such a considerable change? These are the questions we need to address. Now.

P.S. Fuck the Chief discussion. Let's concentrate on a real issue that matters, instead of the end of a dancing white kid dressed in fake feathers.

3 comments:

Mary said...

Can I get an AMEN?!?!

Don Gerard said...

Crucifying Weber is bullshit.

His players still need to take personal responsibility for their actions.

Dee Brown, James Augustine & Roger Powell all have NBA minutes AND degrees from the U of I.

Luther Head was on the verge of dropping out of school and going nowhere when Weber turned him around. Luther needs only a summer internship to get his bachelors' degree (which he probably would have done had he not worked his way from "on nobody's radar" to first-round NBA draft pick.

If we as fans can stand behind Weber through all that has occurred this year I fully expect to be richly rewarded down the line.

And, if not, well...How 'bout them Cubbies???

thenoiseboy said...

I'm not saying he necessarily needs to go; I'm saying he needs to change.