Weber Is Fired by Illinois After Big Ten Basketball Tourney Exit

Bruce Weber was fired as men’s basketball coach at the University of Illinois, one day after the Fighting Illini were eliminated from the Big Ten Conference tournament.

Weber won’t coach the team if it is invited to play in the National Invitational Tournament and he’ll be paid $3.9 million for the remaining three years on his contract, the school said in a statement.

“This is an extremely difficult decision, especially with the success Bruce Weber had early in his career here,” Mike Thomas, the schools’ athletic director, said in a statement.

The Illini reached the National Collegiate Athletic Association championship game in 2005, losing 75-70 to North Carolina.

Shaka Smart, who led Virginia Commonwealth University to the national tournament’s Final Four last year and worked with Thomas at the University of Akron, is expected to be among the candidates to succeed Weber, ESPN reported, without citing a source for its information.

Illinois (17-15) lost 12 of its last 14 games, including a 64-61 defeat to Iowa yesterday in conference tournament play. The Illini went 6-12 in the Big Ten during the regular season, tying for ninth place.

Weber was 210-101 in nine years at the Champaign, Illinois, school since leaving Southern Illinois to replace Bill Self in April 2003. His career record as a head coach is 403-155. The team made NCAA tournament appearances six times during his tenure, though it went 50-56 in conference play over the last six seasons.

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