Bruce Weber knows that Kansas State fans may not accept him right away. That much became clear when a small rally for another coaching candidate turned into a protest of Weber’s hiring.

The former Illinois coach doesn’t have a problem with that, though.

Weber is up for any challenge that’s presented to him.

Weber was hired by Kansas State on Saturday to replace Frank Martin, whose departure for South Carolina earlier in the week sent shockwaves through the program. The school moved quickly on the hiring, finalizing a deal late Friday.

Weber agreed to a five-year, $8.5 million contract that will pay him $1.5 million next season and an additional $100,000 each remaining year. There are also several benefits.

“It’s been a whirlwind, to be honest. Just a few hours ago I was in New Orleans thinking I was going to have gumbo,” said Weber, who was attending the Final Four before hopping on a plane with Kansas State Athletic Director John Currie and heading to Kansas on Saturday.

“We wanted a coach who recognized the tremendous opportunity that exists here at Kansas State,” Currie said. “Bruce Weber’s name repeatedly rose to the top of the list, whose personal values and integrity matched those of K-State.”

Weber was greeted at Bramlage Coliseum by a small group of fans who had been planning to support another candidate, and who were displeased with the hiring of a coach recently fired by Illinois.

Weber was let go after compiling a 210-101 record over nine seasons, which included six trips to the NCAA tournament and a national runner-up finish in 2005. The Illini went 17-15 overall and 6-12 in the Big Ten this season, prompting the administration to let Weber go with three years left on his contract.

“I’ll be honest: We had a young team, six freshmen, one returning starter,” Weber said. “The disappointment of a lot of close losses took a toll. It happens.”

Weber takes over for Martin, who returned a once-proud program to national prominence after Bob Huggins’ departure for West Virginia five years ago. Weber will be the fourth coach to lead Kansas State in eight seasons — and the third to cause some consternation among fans.

Huggins was hired still carrying baggage from his messy divorce with Cincinnati, while Martin was a nondescript assistant who had never been a college head coach.

Weber certainly has experience running a program. It’s just that not all of it has been good.

He was considered one of the rising stars of the profession after taking Southern Illinois to a pair of NCAA tournament appearances, one of which ended in the regional semifinals. He then took over a program at Illinois that had been built into a perennial contender under Bill Self — now the coach at Kansas, the Wildcats’ biggest rival.

Weber had immediate success at Illinois with players largely recruited by Self, returning to the NCAA tournament his first four seasons. That included a 37-2 record during the 2004-05 season, which ended with a 75-70 loss to North Carolina in the national championship game.

The program began to slip soon after, though, and fans who had grown accustomed to winning began to sour.