Thursday, October 13, 2005

No Slick Willy, Just the Real Deal

There are a lot of Slick Willy coaches in college basketball. You know who they are--the Quinn Snyder's, Billy Donovan's, and Bill Self's of the world (my apologies for any name misspellings and to the many coaches who fall into this category that I didn't take time to specifically name).

Thankfully, there are also some coaches who are very genuine and are the what you see is what you get type of people. Bruce Weber falls into this category. I have had a lot of respect for Coach Weber since he became the head coach at Illinois and many of my impressions of him were confirmed Tuesday night. Coach was at a store near where I work to sign his book, "Through My Eyes," which focuses on the 2004-2005 Illini season from his point of view. After work, I took the time to go over and meet Coach Weber and to pick up a copy of his book. He was scheduled to be at the store from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. When I arrived, it was around 5:20 and there were about 25-30 people ahead of me in line. Obviously, I had some time to kill so I visited wih a few of the other people in line and also took some time to observe Coach Weber. I was impressed with what I saw.

As he signed each person's book, Coach Weber took time to say a few words to them, answer a question, visit for a minute, take a photo, you name it. He also thanked each person as they left. He was very engaging and put people at ease. As I got closer, I also noticed that he was doing more than just signing "To John" and then "Bruce Weber." He was personalizing each book with things like "Loyal Illini Fans," "Go Illini," "Final Four-05,"37-2," etc. Some books, he virtually filled the page! One of the posted signs said that Coach Weber would only be signing his book but he must not have been the one to create that policy because he was gracious enough to sign whatever else people had brought with them--hats, basketballs, shirts, and so on. My favorite observation was when a mom and four kids who were just ahead of me went up to get their books signed. Coach took the youngest kid on his lap and the other 3 gathered around him for a picture. The kids were all wearing orange Illini shirts and he signed the back of all of them--it was awesome to watch those kids. They were so excited!

As for me, Coach was gracious enough to sign one book to me and my family and one book to my brother (can't remember if I have mentioned him before on the blog but his nickname is Red Rock for future reference). It was also an exciting night for Illinitalk as he signed two printouts from the blog--one for Chief and one for me. If you are wondering what entry we chose to have him sign, it was the two entries from March 12th (you can find them in the March archives) when Chief and I each wrote about Coach Weber and the passing of his mom. I also left a copy of those entries for Coach Weber to have.

My final observation of the book signing was that when I left at about 6 p.m., which is when the signing was scheduled to end, there were still 20-25 people in line (it was a steady turnout the whole time) and Coach Weber was still signing. I know he had to be somewhere to speak by 7 p.m. but he was going to stay as long as he could to try and accomodate each person. I don't know what time he ended up leaving but I know some authors would have left the minute 6 p.m. arrived.

Coach Weber is the real deal. I just can't say enough about how impressed I was by the way he treated the people at the book signing. He is very nice, sincere, and genuine. I have read a lot of comments on Illiniboard and in various articles lately where there seems to be some consternation about Illinois' recruiting efforts. Here is my response to all of those: I don't know how the various recruiting battles are going to turn out but I do know this--if recruits and their families are seeing what I observed Tuesday evening, then we are going to be just fine. Until later, Go Illini!

P.S. If you live even remotely close to Champaign-Urbana, then get out to Midnight Madness this Friday night and pack the Hall with orange. For details click here. (Note at the end of the article that single game tickets go on sale at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, November 1st!!!)

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