The wild coaching search is now over. Illinois has finally found their guy with Ohio University coach John Groce.
According to multiple reports Wednesday night, Illinois has finally reached an agreement with John Groce to become the next Illini basketball coach. After striking out on Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens, Illinois turned its attention to the next hottest mid-major coach in Groce, who just led the Ohio Bobcats to a Sweet Sixteen this year before losing to North Carolina in overtime.
Groce, 40 years old, was a long time assistant to Thad Matta at Ohio State, Xavier, and Butler before being hired as Ohio’s head coach in 2008. In his four year’s at Ohio, Groce led the Bobcats to two NCAA tournaments and compiled an 85-56 record, while going 34-30 in the MAC. Their tournament appearances weren’t just one-and-done’s either, advancing to the 2nd round two years ago after knocking off Georgetown, and the Sweet Sixteen this year by beating Michigan and South Florida.
Multiple tweets from former and current players suggest that guards will absolutely love Groce’s system at Illinois. Former Ohio State star Evan Turner said on Twitter, “Coach Groce’s offense is legit. Built for guards. The big ten is going to get even better in the future. Yessir”, while also tweeting to Brandon Paul “you’re going to enjoy Groce’s offense if he’s your new coach, believe me!”. Ohio point guard DJ Cooper even said “If coach goes to U of I just know my homie(DJ Richardson) will be in heaven.”
Specifics of the contract have not come out yet, but Illinois will have to pay a $200,000 buyout to Ohio, while still having to pay former coach Bruce Weber his $3.9 million buyout.
National media writers love the hire for Illinois. Mike Decourcy says “John Groce wasn’t first choice, but may be best fit for Illinois”, while ESPN’s Jon Greenberg says that Illinois should be lucky Groce fell into their laps.
Time will tell if Groce is the right hire, but he’s going to have to hit the ground running recruiting Chicago. Reports right now say it’s unlikely Jerrance Howard will be back, which is a shame since he’s an Illini alum. Groce has some Chicago ties since he recruited DJ Cooper, but Chicago Public League ties are what people talk about when they say “he needs to recruit Chicago”. Chicago Simeon coach Robert Smith is constantly being mentioned by fans to be an assistant for Illinois. Again, time will tell what will happen with the assistant situation at the school.
A press conference is set for Thursday to announce the hire.