KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The outpouring for Bruce Weber after his resignation had a common thread among coaches — “He did it the right way.”
So, finally, I asked Oklahoma State head coach Mike Boynton Jr. on Thursday what ‘the right way’ means in this profession.
“There’s black and there’s white, and then there’s the gray area,” Boynton told me in between ESPN standups. “Bruce didn’t operate in the gray.”
What does not “operating in the gray area” mean? Well, perhaps it’s time to rewind Weber’ seven-minute soliloquy from what turned out to be his last press conference on Wednesday night.
Weber made what seemed like an odd remark at the time about his hair. But, as it turned out, he might have been taking a thinly-veiled shot at the state of college basketball.
He’s on the NCAA Ethics Committee and he made what I thought was a joke at the time.
“I’m in meetings,” Weber said. “I was told that they were going to take care of the people in the FBI stuff. So I told somebody I’m going to grow my hair until something happens. Obviously it’s still growing. That’s the sad part of our business.”
I won’t post it here, but there’s a Mrs. Doubtfire meme that’s shaking up Twitter due to the resemblance of Weber’s coif to that of Robin Williams’ character. Weber’s hair is, in a word, long (for him). One could blame the pandemic, but I’ve gotten haircuts for more than a year since lockdown. So, perhaps he WAS trying to make a point.
That point grew only more salient when he brought up a recent conversation with former Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger, who retired last year. If I recall, I heard a lot of coaches say the same thing about Kruger when he retired, that he did it ‘the right way.’ Plus, Kruger himself said the NCAA was “taking a knife to a gunfight” when it came to this stuff, if I recall (and I do since I wrote a story about it last year).
“Lon Kruger told me the other day all the guys in the FBI (investigation) except one are in the NCAA Tournament,” Weber said. “All those teams are going to be in the NCAA Tournament.”
Those ‘FBI’ teams are the ones that are engulfed in the wire-tapping investigation of college basketball, one that started several years and has seen little resolution when it comes to the NCAA.
One of those ‘FBI’ schools is Oklahoma State. That’s why Boynton is doing ESPN work this week instead of coaching his Cowboys in the Big 12 Tournament. One former Cowboys assistant coach, Lamont Evans, took nearly $19,000 in bribes and, four years later, the Cowboys have a one-year postseason ban.
It took the NCAA THAT long to investigate and hear OSU’s appeal. By the way, the NCAA sat on that appeal for 17 months, long enough for OSU to reach the NCAA Tournament under Boynton for the first time and with No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick Cade Cunningham running the show. How convenient?
Boynton was with the program, working under then-head coach Brad Underwood. He had nothing to do with what happened. But he and his players have had to deal with that all season. By all accounts, Boynton does things ‘the right way,’ and has dismissed players along the way for not meetings his standards.
Which brings us back to Weber.
“He did things above board, which sometimes makes recruiting difficult, especially at a place where you know, the traditional history isn’t always the most compelling thing to try to get a kid to come for,” Boynton said.
Ask TCU coach Jamie Dixon and he’ll tell you the same thing about Weber.
Ask West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins and he’ll tell you the same thing about Weber.
Ask Texas head coach Chris Beard and he’ll tell you the same thing about Weber.
Heck ask ESPN commentator Fran Fraschilla about Weber — and I did — and he’ll tell you the same thing about Weber.
The only coach that didn’t phrase things ‘that way’ on Thursday was Kansas coach Bill Self.
Self praised Weber’s decade-long career at Kansas State after the Jayhawks defeated West Virginia. But Kansas is one of those ‘FBI programs’ that Weber referenced. The Jayhawks got tied up in that FBI investigation years ago, and the NCAA has taken three years to investigate the Jayhawks and still hasn’t reached a resolution. The delays have been, in a word, unacceptable, given the level of allegations.
So there was Weber on Wednesday night, long hair and all, talking about ethics and ‘FBI teams’ and doing things the right way. Some took it as his take on the state of college basketball.
But was he ALSO taking a thinly-veiled shot at his Sunflower State rival, seeing as he knew he was probably heading out the door?
I suppose that all depends on whether Weber gets a hair cut in the next few days, or holds out until, say, the NCAA finally announces a decision about Kansas. Or, any other team involved in that FBI probe, for that matter.
Turns out Weber may not have pulled punches as he headed out the door. Only his barber will know for sure.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.