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Weber: Players getting the message

February 18, 2012

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— Illinois coach Bruce Weber said Friday that he hopes to finish his career with the Illini after a week that saw him criticize both himself and his players before apologizing for being frustrated.

The ninth-year head coach said his players took the right message away from his harsh critique: They need to play tougher.

“I love Illinois, I’ve said it many times,” Weber said. “I love to be the coach here. I want to finish my career here.

“Do I want to do better? No doubt,” he added. “And that’s my disappointment and frustration, because I know I’m a good coach, and I’ve done it for a long time.”

After a 67-62 home loss Wednesday to Purdue, Weber said in an emotional news conference that he’d failed the past few years to create a culture of toughness at Illinois, choosing to play to win every game because he was coaching under high pressure rather than, in some cases, sending a key player to the bench to deliver a message and risk losing.

Weber declined Friday to say whether he’d considered resigning.

“That’s not even a question I’ll address, to be honest,” he said. “What has happened? We’re 16 and 10, we’re still in the NCAA field.”

The Illini (16-10, 5-8 Big Ten) have lost seven of eight. Some prognosticators, though, still consider them a likely NCAA Tournament team because of wins over Michigan State and Ohio State.

Athletic director Mike Thomas has said he’ll evaluate Weber’s performance after the season, but has said he believes Illinois should do more than just make the tournament.

Weber said his players told him after practice Thursday that they understood what he was saying.

“They said that we need to be tougher, and I said that’s exactly right,” Weber said.

Illinois players weren’t available to the media Friday. Assistant sports information director Derrick Burson said the team planned to fly to Nebraska that afternoon to prepare for today’s game against the Cornhuskers (11-13, 3-10).

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