Wednesday February 2nd, 2005

CLICK HERE FOR PART I OF GRANT WAHL'S MAILBAG

I haven't heard anything about Bruce Weber's recruiting at Illinois. Do the Illini have anyone to talk about coming in next year? Or are they doomed to mediocrity once Bill Self's players take off? -- Steve Sirloin, Kansas City

As I mention in my SI article on the Illini this week, the jury's still out on Weber as a recruiter at Illinois. The last two years Weber has put in huge efforts but lost out on top in-state recruits Shaun Livingston of Peoria (to Duke, which then lost him to the NBA) and Julian Wright of the Chicago area (to Kansas). That one especially hurt because former Illini coach Bill Self swooped in and got a commitment from Wright without even a campus visit to Lawrence. Give Weber time, though. He's getting some great pub from the Illini's stretch at No. 1, and he has landed a decent three-man signing class for next season in shooting guard Jamar Smith of Peoria; point guard Chester Frazier of Baltimore and forward Charles Jackson of Buena Vista, Ga.

Here's a parlor game for you. Which school can claim the most former coaches (both assistant and head, within the last 10 years) as current head coaches of other Division I programs? I don't know the answer, but Illinois currently has nine: Lou Henson (New Mexico State), Jimmy Collins (Illinois-Chicago), Bill Self (Kansas), Lon Kruger (UNLV), Norm Roberts (St. John's), Billy Gillispie (Texas A&M), Robert McCullum (South Florida), Rob Judson (Northern Illinois) and Chris Lowery (Southern Illinois). -- Erik Alexander, Charlottesville, Va.

Can anyone do better than that? If so, send in your suggestions and we'll take a look at 'em next week.

It seems to be an all but foregone conclusion that Steve Alford will replace Mike Davis as coach at Indiana after this season. My question is: Why? Alford's resume at Iowa is not any better than Davis's at Indiana. I know Alford is the native son who led IU to its last national title, but I don't see how his Big Ten coaching resume merits a "promotion" to the Indiana job. Is there something I'm missing, or are Indiana fans just messed in the head? -- Mark Johnson, Washington, D.C.

You ask a sensible question, Mark: How can Alford be on the hot seat in Iowa City while Hoosiers fans keep a seat warm for him in Bloomington? I guess the best answer has to do with a coach's "fit" in his environment. Rightly or wrongly (I'd say the latter), Davis has never been a good fit at IU, whereas Alford has a history there. But you're right. As far as on-paper production is concerned, Alford has hardly set the world on fire at Iowa. There's reason to believe the Hawkeyes will be a top-10 preseason team next year (their top players are all supposed to come back), but on- and off-the-court problems (including Pierre Pierce's latest legal troubles) may prevent Alford from getting the chance.

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