K-State fans gave Dana Altman same support they now give Bruce Weber

News broke Monday that Kansas State would retain Bruce Weber for the 2017-18 season.

Unless you’re an unlucky soul in need of a cranial extraction from a certain cavity, you can guess the resigned but loud reaction that followed for the growing number of fans who swear they are finished with the men’s basketball program — attendance, donations, etc. — until Weber is gone.

K-State fans once withdrew massive support for Final Four Oregon coach Dana Altman … in only his second season leading the Wildcats.

What I wonder is how many of those fans were the same ones, or perhaps brought up in the homes of fans back in the day, who begged for Dana Altman to be replaced less than two years into his tenure almost 30 years ago.

Wait … what happened? Surely, you jest.

I don’t jest, and don’t call me Shirley.

It’s true. A fresh-faced Dana Altman was hired to replace Lon Kruger, who unceremoniously dumped the Wildcats for Florida and left a depleted roster. K-State fans, who were much more used to high levels of success 25 years ago, gave Kruger permanent God status while giving Altman one year and a short deck to deal a winning hand, which of course didn’t happen.

K-State finished last in the Big 8 Conference for the first time ever, and fans let their standalone-mustachioed leader have it by withdrawing their support by refusing to attend games. According to an Associated Press story dated Feb. 5, 1992:

“… already twice this season, fewer than 6,000 fans have showed up at Bramlage, which opened in 1989. Bramlage seats 13,500, and attendance is averaging about 7,800.” 

History is written only by those who remain, and the popular, hands-washed, K-State revisionist edition is that Altman simply wasn’t ready to be a coach at the Big 8 level. Maybe or even probably a good part of that is true, but if he wasn’t getting any real support from nearly the start? It’s convenient to build a home without nails and then blame its collapse on the person who happened to live in it at the time.

And so, that’s when things really began to turn from a bit messy to completely gross.

Feeling pressured (but no so much that it was willing or could afford to overcome serious athletic department debt and pay for quality leadership), K-State was turned down by Tubby Smith before whistling The Offspring’s “No Self Esteem” and hiring Tom Asbury, who waited to see if Iowa State would come open before accepting the K-State gig.

“I didn’t want to make any snap decisions,” he said at the time.

(Now I know I’m being used. That’s okay, man, ’cause I like the abuse…)

Eventually, the California tan paled and support shrank over the next six years, and Asbury was let go after going 85-88. At the time, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported Asbury was the lowest paid coach in the Big 8. That trend didn’t change as K-State again went on the cheap, offering Jim Wooldridge approximately $400,000 to be a program savior. That figure ranked near the bottom of the league as well, but it didn’t stop then athletic director Max Urick from saying Wooldridge was “a fantastic recruiter and had a history of being a turnaround artist…”*

*The really fun part about that salary figure is that it was about $50,000 less than what future Wildcats assistant Dalonte Hill would make annually simply because he pulled the Michael Beasley puppet strings. That comparison does a fantastic job at painting just how out of touch K-State admins prior to 2006-07 were with regard to the cost of recapturing the success they and the fan base felt they were entitled to. 

We know how that ended before Bob Huggins, Frank Martin, Brad Underwood and the rest of the cavalry arrived.

Back to the present, and K-State fans are gnashing their teeth over this week’s Final Four, which includes a coach they had but didn’t want, and another they had and finally wanted but lost because of an overzealous, short-timing NCAA compliance officer who masquerades as an athletic director.

Life, you and your ironies just suck sometimes.

Anyways, here’s hoping that fans realize not supporting the program never works, though the present day seems to show the “Altman withdrawal” has resurfaced. And also, here’s hoping the yet-to-be-named director of athletics uses the now-full coffers, when the time is right, to get K-State back in the real arms race again.

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K-State basketball: Disgruntled fan’s pipe dream

This quote from Twitter, which came in a conversation thread regarding Bruce Weber, caught my eye on Monday because it is the quintessential disgruntled Kansas State Wildcats basketball fan’s coaching pipe dream in a nutshell.

“whoever we get, i want it to be someone who will stay forever & be successful, and fill up the octagon, make it a tough place to win.”

Undeterred by the latest examples of extreme rise-and-falls (Tom Crean) and loyal-until-tomorrows (Brad Underwood), and fueled by watching their former coach make another Sweet 16 (Frank Martin), the fans who want so badly for K-State to make a coaching move (as the poll following the Cincinnati loss suggests) are frothing even more today. They’re just sure they’re missing out on …

whoever we get.

And when that “whoever” shows up, it’ll be a “no more Bruceketball!” party and long honeymoon as the wins start to flow with Weber’s former players, which proves he wasn’t the guy to break through with this roster despite an upward trend. Or maybe the losses come instead, but that’s okay because the new staff obviously needs time to dismantle Weber’s obviously crappy work.

In either case, that guy will get all the time needed to “fix” things because those fans will have given their heart to him in hopes that their new rebound “whoever” …

“will stay forever and be successful …”

And that coach should be successful because those fans who were so steadfast in withholding their support from Bruce Weber will now flock to games – regardless of results (because that’s how this “not Bruce” thing will work, right?) …

and fill up the octagon, make it a tough place to win.”

Early on at least, this new “whoever” will need and deserve fans’ help in building a home court advantage that possibly leads to a few more key home wins – wins those same fans felt the last coach needed to get without their help because he should have to prove something to them first.

All of this totally seems fair, doesn’t it?

I guess you just hope “whoever” actually gets the kind of one-direction support needed to succeed – something that has embarrassingly been lacking for a couple of years now at KSU. It’s one thing to question, but to outright boycott a team that hasn’t really given reason to do so? That does nobody – players, coaches, administration, or even the fans themselves – any favors.