Illinois Fires Head Men’s Basketball Coach John Groce

    Illinois dismissed head men's basketball coach John Groce on Saturday. The Fighting Illini will miss the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight season.

    March 13, 2017

    Illinois dismissed head men’s basketball coach John Groce on Saturday. The Fighting Illini will miss the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight season.

    The John Groce era has come to an end at Illinois.

    The Fighting Illini dismissed the former Ohio head coach after five underwhelming seasons in Champaign. The university announced the move on Saturday.

    The decision by the school comes with the expectation that the Illini will fail to make the NCAA Tournament for the fourth season in a row when the 68-team field is announced on Selection Sunday.

    “I want to thank John Groce and his staff for their tireless efforts over these past five years,” Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman said in a statement. “In many ways, John is a model leader. He exudes optimism and tackles every day with unbelievable energy. He has the highest integrity. He has been an active presence in our community and a strong public ambassador for Illinois Basketball. Most importantly, he loves his players unconditionally and helps them develop into young men prepared for the next stages of their lives. Our student-athletes are having a positive experience, achieving record heights in the classroom, and leaving campus as proud graduates with bright futures.

    “Under his leadership, regrettably, we were not able to sustain the level of competitive excellence that we expect at the University of Illinois. But that should do nothing to detract from the many wonderful things John has done on behalf of Illinois Basketball during his tenure. We wish John, Allison, and their three children nothing but the best, and we thank his staff and their families as well for their many contributions to our program. All will be missed.”

    Groce went 95-75 in his five seasons with the Illini, including an 18-14 mark this year when the team finished ninth in the Big Ten. Illinois dropped a 75-55 decision to Michigan in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday.

    After going 23-13 in his debut season of 2012-13 and reaching the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament, Illinois could not sustain that success over the following four seasons. The Illini failed to finish better than seventh place in the Big Ten in his five years.

    Groce was brought into Illinois following a strong four-year run at Ohio, which went 85-56 during his four-year tenure. The Bobcats made two NCAA Tournament appearances, including a run to the Sweet Sixteen in his final season at the school.

    How will this affect the Illini’s recruiting efforts? Groce had put together a stellar 2017 class headlined by five-star center Jeremiah Tilmon. The Illini had a chance to have a top ten national group. Now, those players could start to seek other options. This class needs to be salvaged, but that will be determined by who Whitman and the Illini bring in as Groce’s replacement.

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