In what has been a crazy past three or four days for Illinois fans and VCU fans, it has finally come to an end.
On Wednesday, according to multiple reports across the country, Shaka Smart informed Illinois AD Mike Thomas that he was no longer interested in the head coaching job at Illinois. Reports says that Smart turned down a $2.5 million per year deal at Illinois and will return next season at VCU.
Now we won’t know how everything went down, but this makes Illinois look a little bad because of how public this courting was. All weekend and into this week articles and tweets from nation writers were all talking about “Smart to Illinois per my sources” and then once Monday came around, you started to hear “Shaka out recruiting for VCU” and “Sounds like he’s going to stay unless something drastic happens in the next 24 hours”. At the start of the week there were rumors of Chicago Simeon coach Robert Smith being in Champaign negotiating a deal to become Smarts assistant at Illinois. Flights were being tracked on Illini message boards, with people making big deals about flights from Willard Airport in Champaign, to Washington DC, which is close to Richmond and also people throwing a big fit about flights between Willard and Raleigh-Durham, fearing it was for Chris Collins.
Now that the “Shaka-watch” drama seems to have come to a close, Illinois still needs a head basketball coach. Yesterday a report came out that said Alabama coach Anthony Grant is not interested in the job, but a report today suggests otherwise. Illini fans seem to think Sean Miller could be had from Arizona, since he has ties to the midwest and apparently him and his wife miss it. Miller is bringing in the top rated recruiting class next year, and I just don’t see him leaving them behind. Buzz Williams is another being mentioned, but would he want to leave Marquette? Illinois can surely pay more, but after his emotional press conference late last week, he and his family really seem at home there.
That leaves Illinois with candidates such as Duke assistant Chris Collins, Ohio head coach John Groce, Reggie Theus, Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton, or someone we haven’t heard mentioned yet.
AD Mike Thomas has said he’d like to have a coach before the Final Four.
Who do you think will be the next Illinois coach? Let us know in the comments.