After a long and somewhat troubling search, Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas has hired Ohio University head coach John Groce to be the next Illini men’s basketball coach. After the job was reportedly turned down by the likes of Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens, Thomas turned to what some media members call his sixth-choice in Groce. But regardless of how he got there, Groce is headed to Champaign with the goal of getting the Illini back in the top half of the conference and into the NCAA Tournament.
Groce seemed like a logical candidate from the beginning – a mid-major coach with ties to the area and conference that has tournament success and a proven winning record. In his four seasons at Ohio, Groce took the Bobcats to 2 NCAA Tournaments, including a Sweet Sixteen run this March. Before landing in Athens – his first head coaching job – Groce spent eight total seasons as an assistant to Thad Matta at Butler, Xavier and Ohio State. He was on the Ohio State staff in 2007 when the Buckeyes lost to Florida in the National Championship game.