You Can't Spell Disaster Without I-L-L
As an Illinois alumni, I was fully expecting that Bruce Weber would be fired as head coach of the men's basketball team after an abyssmal collapse this season. What I was NOT expecting was the shit show that ensued as we tried to find Weber's replacement.
Shaka Smart demanded a $21 million dollar contract and then turned it down. Brad Stevens did the same. We were rejected by others, too (Alabama's Anthony Grant, Washington's Lorenzo Romar and Florida State's Leonard Hamilton), but Smart and Stevens were the headline rejections.
Yesterday, the school reached terms with John Groce, who took Ohio to the Sweet 16 this year, and he was introduced as the new men's basketball coach. But not before Illinois had thoroughly embarrassed itself.
As David Haugh from the Chicago Tribune put it best: "...here we are, with Illinois ready to take home the girl it met five minutes before closing time."
For a school to consider itself one of the top jobs in the B1G, only to be turned down by two mid-major coaches is a serious blow to Illinois' ego.
Elite programs like Kansas and Kentucky don't have this problem. People trip over themselves to get those jobs. If Thad Matta ever left Ohio State, the Buckeyes would surely not have this problem. They had no problem luring Urban Meyer out of retirement to become the next football coach.
I'm not saying Groce is a bad hire or will fail - he could be great. But he also played hardball because he knew, as the school's fifth choice, he should and could make them work for it.
It's time for Illinois to reasses its status - not only within its conference, but within all D1 schools. It makes me sad to say it, but it's not the elite program AD Mike Thomas thinks it is.