Kansas State’s basketball game at Marquette on Saturday will be loaded with special meaning for Bruce Weber.
The K-State basketball coach grew up in Milwaukee and used to watch Marquette home games as a child. Give him the chance, and he will tell you all about Al McGuire and the great Golden Eagles team that won the 1977 national championship.
He will get an opportunity to coach in his home town against a team he admires on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Fiserv Forum.
“It’s a lot of really good memories,” Weber said. “I grew up watching Marquette and Al McGuire, really good teams in the national championship. I remember going to the old Milwaukee arena, and that’s two arenas ago. Lots of friends and family will be there.”
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That might be an understatement.
Weber is expecting to have more than 100 supporters on hand. Most weeks, K-State players are the ones scurrying to find extra tickets for friends and family members. This time, it’s their coach.
“That’s not going to cousins and second cousins and all that stuff,” Weber said. “There will be a lot of childhood friends and family. I ordered a bunch of tickets a long time ago knowing it would be that kind of situation. But it’s even beyond that. I had to tell a lot of people to go find their own tickets.”
Weber grew up there and attended college at Wisconsin-Milwaukee, but he has never actually coached in the state.
He got his start as an assistant at Western Kentucky under Gene Keady in 1979 and then followed him to Purdue. He got his head coaching start at Southern Illinois, jumped from there to Illinois and is now at K-State.
This will feel like a homecoming for him.
Still, that’s not what he or the Wildcats are focused on. Sure, K-State players would love to give their coach an enjoyable victory in his hometown, but their top priority is picking up an important win in their first true road game of the season.
“It will be a real exciting game this weekend, playing in a new building real close to Marquette,” senior forward Dean Wade said. “They are going to have a lot of fans there. Our new guys will be thrown into a very hostile environment. It will be fun.”
At 6-0, there’s no denying the No. 12 Wildcats are off to a good start. But they haven’t played anyone as good as Marquette. The Golden Eagles are 5-2 with a victory over Louisville.
This could be a telling game.
“It will be good for everyone,” senior guard Barry Brown said. “This is our first road test of the year. It will be good to see how we fight under adversity even though we did it collectively last year.”
It will only be a fun game for Weber if K-State wins.
“It’s a big game for us,” Weber said. “That’s the most important thing. You’ve got a road game against one of the teams that is a favorite in the Big East. They already beat Louisville and gave Kansas a heck of a game. We know it is going to be a tough test.”