What many have been calling for finally happened — the University of Illinois has relieved John Groce of his duties as men’s basketball head coach.
Groce undoubtedly turned around the program academically and socially, something that made this decision difficult to make for athletic director Josh Whitman.
“I want to thank John Groce and his staff for their tireless efforts over these past five years,” Whitman said in a press release announcing Groce’s firing. “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.”
Ultimately it was the record on the court that did Groce in. After all, coaches are hired to ensure their teams win games. All the other stuff is just part of the equation that gets weighed against a win-loss record.
“Under his leadership, regrettably, we were not able to sustain the level of competitive excellence that we expect at the University of Illinois,” Whitman continued. “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 failed in that win-loss category in a big way, becoming the first head coach since Gene Bartow in the mid 1970’s to have a losing record in the Big Ten during his career at Illinois.
As for what is next, Whitman has a plan in place for the immediate and long term future of the program.
According to the release, a national search for the next head coach will begin immediately. In the meantime, assistant coach Jamall Walker has been elevated to the role of interim head coach.