Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - March 29, 2012

Illinois Hires Groce As Men’s Basketball Coach

(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)

The University of Illinois has hired Ohio University's John Groce, 40, as it news head coach of the men's basketball team.

He replaces Bruce Weber, who was fired this month after a disappointing season, losing 12 of their last 14 games.

Groce said he hopes to improve the team's winning streak.

"I'm not going to pre-judge," Groce said. "I'm going to start working with them. I'm going to look forward to doing that, and then we're going to figure out the best style here in year one that fits them that gives them the best chance to be successful. I think adaptability is important."

Groce spent the past four seasons as the head coach at Ohio, where he led the Bobcats to an 85-56 overall record and a run to the Sweet 16 of this year's NCAA tournament.

At the U of I, he will earn $1.4 million per year over five years.

Ohio fans this week started an online petition to try to keep Groce, and school administrators said they were trying to raise money to increase his pay and keep him at Ohio. Groce is being paid $355,000 this year, according to the school, including bonuses.

Groce was an assistant with Thad Matta at Butler, Xavier and Ohio State before taking over at Ohio. He was reportedly targeted after Virginia Commonwealth's Shaka Smart and Butler's Brad Stevens passed up chances to take over at Illinois.

Meanwhile, the U of I on Wednesday hired University of Wisconsin-Green Bay's Matt Bollant as its new women's basketball coach.

Categories: Education, Sports

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 29, 2012

Sources:  Illinois Comes to Terms with Groce

The Chicago Tribune and CBSSports.com are reporting that Illinois has agreed to a deal with Ohio University's John Groce to replace Bruce Weber as men's basketball coach.

CBSSports.com, citing an unidentified source, reports that Groce is expected to meet with his team in Athens, Ohio, Thursday and will be introduced at a news conference in Champaign later in the week.

The Tribune, also citing an unidentified source, reports that a disagreement on terms of the contract delayed the hiring for a few days.

Groce has been at Ohio since 2008, leading the Bobcats of the Mid-American Conference to the NCAA tournament twice, including a run to the round of 16 this year that ended with an overtime loss to North Carolina.

Weber was fired after nine seasons at Illinois.

The news means the U of I could be filling vacancies on back-to-back days. Matt Bollant was announced as the new women's basketball coach Wednesday, leaving the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay after a 31 and 2 mark.

Categories: Education, Sports

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - March 28, 2012

Illinois Names New Women’s Basketball Coach

Illinois has named University of Wisconsin-Green Bay's Matt Bollant as its new women's basketball coach.

Illinois Athletic Director Mike Thomas announced Bollant's hiring Wednesday morning. Thomas said Bollant has a proven track record and the type of experience that will help him duplicate that success in Champaign.

Bollant said he cannot guarantee instant success, but he said the effort will eventually pay off.

"I will promise you this," Bollant said. "You're going to have a head coach that will be in the community. You'll have a head coach that works his tail off to make this great. I'm going to get up every morning and come to work. Find a job that you love, and you'll never have to work a day in your life. That's what I feel like I have. And our players are going to learn to play hard. As talented as they are, when they give as much effort as they can give, good things will happen. And everything else will take care of itself."

Under Bollant this season, Wisconsin-Green Bay finished 31-2 and made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament. The 41-year-old coach was 148-19 in five seasons at Green Bay, and four of his teams made the NCAA tournament.

Bollant said he is proud of the success he has had in Green Bay, but is honored to take the Illinois job. He will make $330,000 annually plus incentives.

His Green Bay Phoenix finished 6-0 against Big Ten schools the last two seasons. But Bollant says coaching within the conference opens up new opportunities in terms of recruitment.

"If we're the 10th-ranked team in the country, which we have been the last two years, we can go after any recruit." Bollant said. "At Green Bay, we still struggle to beat out the Big Ten. We can beat them on the basketball court, but still, because of the academics, because of the campus, and all those other things, it was a challenge."

Bollant replaces Jolette Law, who was fired at the end of the season. Law was 69-93 in five seasons with the Illini.

(Photo courtesy of The Associated Press)

Categories: Education, Sports

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 25, 2012

Butler’s Stevens Rejects Illini, Ohio’s Groce Next

A person familiar with the coaching search at Illinois says the Illini are interested in talking to Ohio's John Groce.

The person said Sunday that Illinois turned its attention to Groce after Brad Stevens said he will stay at Butler. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the search to replace fired coach Bruce Weber is ongoing.

A message was left seeking comment from Ohio basketball spokesman Drew Wiseman.

Groce coached Ohio to a 29-7 record this season and a spot in the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament. The Bobcats lost 73-65 to top-seeded North Carolina on Friday in one of the best games of the tournament.

Stevens had reportedly been an Illini target after Shaka Smart elected to stay at VCU

Stevens says he is "happy and extremely grateful'' to be at Butler.

Categories: Education, Sports

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 21, 2012

VCU Coach Smart Not Coming to Illinois

Shaka Smart says he will stay at Virginia Commonwealth.

Illinois had offered its coaching job to Smart, according to multiple reports.

In a statement released by VCU on Wednesday, the 34-year-old Smart said: "I'm looking forward to building on the successes of our program and university.''

Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas declined comment through a spokesman.

Thomas fired Bruce Weber on March 9 after a 17-15 season that ended with a 2-14 slump. Weber's teams missed three of the last five NCAA tournaments and this year didn't make the postseason at all.

Smart's Rams were the darlings of last year's tournament, going from the First Four to the Final Four after barely making it in as a No. 11 seed. They lost to Indiana in this season's third round Saturday.

Categories: Government, Politics, Sports

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 11, 2012

Fighting Illini Fail to Make NIT, Illinois State Plays Wednesday

The same collapse that cost Bruce Weber his job will keep Illinois out of the postseason.

Illinois (17-15, 6-12 Big Ten) was left out of the NIT on Sunday. Athletic Director Mike Thomas said after he fired Weber on Friday that the Illini wouldn't be part of the lower-level College Basketball Invitational or collegeinsider.com tournaments.

Weber was fired after his team collapsed over the season's final six weeks.

Some Illinois players reportedly wanted to skip the NIT even if Illinois had gotten a bid.

The snub completed a collapse in which Illinois sank from a likely NCAA tournament bid in mid-January. But after beating then-No. 5 Ohio State, the Illini lost 12 of 14.

This is the second year in the last five that Illinois has missed the postseason altogether.

Meanwhile, Illinois State will make its fourth appearance in the National Invitation Tournament in the past five seasons when it takes on Ole Miss Wednesday.

Categories: Education, Sports

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - March 09, 2012

Illinois Fires Coach Bruce Weber

Fighting Illini men's basketball coach Bruce Weber will not return next season.

U of I Athletics Director Mike Thomas has announced that Weber, whose team lost to Iowa in the first round of the Big Ten tournament on Thursday, has been dismissed.

Weber came to Illinois in 2003, and guided the team to its first Big Ten title in more than 50 years, and a berth in the Sweet 16. In his second season, the team earned another Big Ten title, finishing with a record of 37-2, losing only to North Carolina in the NCAA title game. But the Illini have had a rocky season, losing 12 of their last 14 games. The Illini closed the year 2-12.

Weber said he is proud of what he accomplished at Illinois, but knows coaching is a bottom-line business.

"Trying to get us to come together as a team, we all had a link and mine was the last one," Weber said. "I only wish I could have connected it, and we had something special to finish the season."

Assistant Coach Jerrance Howard will fill in for Weber on an interim basis. Athletic Director Mike Thomas said a national search will begin to find a new head basketball coach.

"We will move quickly, but we will move diligently, and I'm excited about the prospects of this program for the future," Thomas said. "Certainly, a key to that is feeling like we have the right person in place to lead what is a very national program. "

Weber has three years remaining on his contract, and will receive a buyout of $1.3 million annually.

This is the third dismissal for Thomas, who fired football coach Ron Zook and dismissed women's basketball coach Jolette Law a week ago.

Categories: Education, Sports

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - March 08, 2012

Illini Fall to Iowa in Big Ten Tourney

The Fighting Illini are out of the Big Ten Tournament after one game.

Illinois lost a second half 7-point lead, and fell to Iowa 64-to-61 Thursday in what could be Coach Bruce Weber's final game.

After the game, he said his team is likely on the bubble for an NIT bid. DJ Richardson says the rumors about Coach Weber's future were not a distraction on the court.

"You hear stuff going around campus, people say stuff here and there," Richardson said. "But we still do what we have to do, and the coach still coaches us, and he does a good job of getting us through the tough situations. Me and Brandon (Paul), the upperclassmen have been leaders. We try wherever we can to help the coach out on the court, we just have got to do a better job out there."

Illinois closed out the regular season losing eight of nine. Meyers Leonard had 18 points and six rebounds, and D.J. Richardson and James Bertrand added 11 points each for Illinois.

Matt Gatens scored 20 points for the Hawkeyes. Iowa has won four of six and will play number 1 seed Michigan State Friday.

Categories: Education, Sports

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - March 07, 2012

Peyton Manning Leaves Indianapolis Colts

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said the team is releasing quarterback Peyton Manning after a 14-year run that included one Super Bowl title and four M-V-P awards.

The team needed to cut Manning this week to avoid paying him a $28 million dollar bonus. An emotional Manning delivered a tearful farewell Wednesday during a news conference with Irsay by his side.

"I haven't thought yet about where I'll play, but I have thought a lot about where I've been, and I've truly been blessed," Manning said. "I've been blessed to play here. I've been blessed to be in the NFL."

The 35-year-old Manning came off a series of operations to his neck and missed all of last season.

He said he has no plans to retire and hopes to be playing in the NFL at the start of next season. Manning said he plans to live in Indianapolis, even after he moves to a different team.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard said Manning will never be forgotten and Larry Bird, now an executive with the Indiana Pacers, simply called Manning the best athlete to ever play in the Indiana capital.

The Colts are widely expected to replace him with Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.

(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Categories: Sports
Tags: sports

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - March 05, 2012

Illini Finish with Loss at Wisconsin, Face Iowa in Big Ten Tourney

The Illini men's basketball team closed out the regular season with another loss, falling 70 to 56 at Wisconsin Sunday.

Coach Bruce Weber said the game was finished in the first five minutes. He lamented the toll this season has taken on everyone.

"We've been through a really tough stretch in our season, and in our lives to be honest," Weber said after the game. "But you can't do anything except go play basketball - play with a passion if you love the game. And that's the disappointing thing to me. We played very tenative to start the game, and we spotted them 14-2, and that pretty much was the game."

Brandon Paul led all scorers with 22 points. Joseph Bertrand added 10 points, and Meyers Leonard grabbed 12 rebounds.

Wisconsin got 16 points each from Josh Gasser and Jordan Taylor.

Wisconsin finishes 12 and 6 in the Big Ten, Illinois 6 and 12.

The Illini are the 9 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. They play 8th-seeded Iowa Thursday morning in Indianapolis. The winner gets top seed Michigan State on Friday.

Categories: Education, Sports

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