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Ain’t No Sunshine March 2, 2012

I had to work until 11:30 tonight. OK, I really only had to work until 9:30 – I had about 4 more hours of work to do once 5:30 arrived – but I took a few hours to watch the game. Big ups to my company for switching to an ISP that carries ESPN3.

I left at 11:30 and just arrived home. On the half-hour drive home, I listen to Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers on repeat. It’s only a two minute song – I probably listened to it 14 times. Why? Because sometimes some songs just fit the mood and you don’t want to leave. Tonight’s mood: melancholy.

At certain points during this basketball season I’ve been angry. Mostly at the coach – play Myke Henry more, why only a 6 man rotation when Northwestern is shorthanded, do we even practice offense – but sometimes at the players. I’ve been thrilled (Ohio State), gut-punched (Minnesota), and depressed (Purdue). Tonight, I’m melancholy. Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone.

The moment that put me there was a subtle one. In the second half, as we were mounting a little comeback, Brandon Paul missed a three pointer but was fouled. Fouled-while-shooting-a-three, especially fouled-while-shooting-a-three-while-attempting-a-comeback-in-a-desperation-game, is a go-to cheering moment for any basketball crowd. Nobody doesn’t cheer fouled-while-shooting-a-three. It’s a great “in your face – now we get THREE free throws” moment. The crowd tonight? Not a sound. Our crowd didn’t even cheer for a fouled-while-shooting-a-three.

But I don’t say this to complain about the crowd. Given the crowd inertia, I probably wouldn’t have cheered. I’m saying this because of what it reveals. Because of what Jalen Rose observed. Assembly Hall is shellshocked, to the point of barely being able to cheer. And that makes me tremendously sad. This house just ain’t no home.

Again, I’m not angry. This isn’t a shake-my-fist-at-Bruce post. This is the post where I can’t find words. This thing I loved is a shell of itself, and nobody seems to know how to fix it. It needs to be sent away for repairs, but we still have to use it 2 or 3 more times, so we’re just limping it along until repairs can be made. It’s hard to watch.

A situation like that is tremendously unfair to the players. If you’ve read this blog for long, you know that I always point to DJ Richardson as the player most harmed by Bruce Weber’s helicopter coaching style. I just don’t think he’s the type of player that can handle a coach telling him what he’s doing wrong while he’s out on the court doing it. I still feel like there will be a moment where DJ turns to him in the middle of a game and says “will you just let me play basketball??”

To see DJ regress near the end of the season for the second year in a row makes me sad. Part of it is the coaching staff, and yes, part of it is on the player, but all of it makes me listen to songs 14 consecutive times. Sam Maniscalco’s season hasn’t turned out anything like he’d planned, Tyler Griffey went from promising in December to buried in February, and Brandon Paul’s stare on camera at the end of the game spoke volumes. All of it makes me so very sad. It’s not supposed to go like this. We’re Illinois Basketball. But all the king’s men don’t seem to have a clue how to put it back together.

Repairs will be made soon, and quite honestly, with the right coaching staff and a fresh approach, I could be feeling really good about our program going forward not even a month from now. There’s lots of talent on this roster.

But tonight, this is just painful. I’ve seen some tweets and message board posts that are mockingly celebrating this disaster. “The season is lost, so sit back and enjoy the tire fire” kind of stuff. I can’t do that. It doesn’t make me a better Illini fan (probably worse, given my whining), but I don’t possess that kind of car-wreck-on-the-interstate morbidity. I just want my program back.

And she’s gone.

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6 Comments
ATOillini March 2nd, 2012

Against my own internal “Don’t do it!” advice I turned the game on at approx 7:30. A commercial finished up and the return to the game showed the Illini had the ball down 2 at about the 10 minute mark. In the blink of an eye we were down 9. I was stunned, sad, despondent, insert another synonym here. Just absolutely awful.
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Normally I agree with almost everything you say on here, but I just have to take the other side of your “There’s lots of talent on this roster” comment. I think I’ve seen enough to now know we have no good ballhandlers, no great passers, no tough rebounders and no good shooters. Seriously. I am praying I’m 100% wrong and this whole mess is a result of a psychological free fall, but I just don’t see it.

agiganti March 2nd, 2012

That moment for DJ came at Minn and the point guard for minny blew by him for a lay-up
I think I’m going to go with another Bruce and hit repeat for “I’m Going Down”

GrogsBBQPepperoni March 2nd, 2012

It’s all been said, sadly. We’ve been a program that’s been “lost in the woods” for some time now. For the words “Fighting Illini” to strike fear in nobodys’ hearts in terms of hoops is really pathetic. It used to be that you did NOT want to go to Champaign for a hoops game. Now it’s looked at as a possible (probable?) Big Ten road win which seem to be way harder to get than they used to be (well, again, except for in Champaign).
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Bruce, it’s time we all part ways. Grab your things, make it quick, and turn the lights off please. We have a ton of work to do to fix what transpired over the last 6 years of your tenure here. A return to the upper half of the Big Ten is what our task is. Man, I can’t believe it’s come to that. What a train wreck. Good capture of the “feeling of the moment” Robert. I agree.

Techslacker March 2nd, 2012

Rose on tv last night…it was painful listening to his voice but what he said was dead on. The players didn’t look like they had much fight in them. They looked very tentative and like they were overthinking everything. I really liked watching Abrams and Leonard as they were the two that stood out as if they were trying to fight through it. Egwu showed a few things.

As for DJ and Paul…role players pure and simple. Yet another question regarding Weber’s recruiting is why he failed to recruit players with more of a leadership mentality. Richmond “might” have fit this mold but after that the closest I’ve seen was Frazier and that didn’t seem to be natural for him at first. There were some who seemed to talk the talk but I never really saw them do the walk. During the Dee years and before we saw Dee, Deron, Luther(in later years), Sergio, Harrington, and even Brian Johnson if you go back a bit more. We also use to see players who showed enthusiasm on the court. Since the AD years we’ve seen a lot of going through the motions. Some point to Weber’s coaching but again I wonder more if it’s just recruiting the wrong player puzzle pieces into the mix.

At any rate I’ve supported Weber for longer than most fans. While I think he could field a very good team next year for Illinois based on returning and incoming talent, I think the distractions are too great and he seems to have trouble managing distractions. It’s time to part ways.

kgwasmyfavorite13 March 2nd, 2012

I hope you’re right about things looking up in a month. But, as the song says, “she’s always gone too long”. I am afraid it might be awhile until we see the Illini we knew and loved.

Lou-a-villini March 2nd, 2012

You can always pop in a “No Doubt” CD if you can’t get enough of BW’s worn out catch phrase during the 30 minute commute.