Published Wed, Mar 28, 2012 8:04 pm Dateline
With Ohio men’s basketball coach John Groce possibly on the verge of taking over at Illinois, Bobcat students are feeling uneasy.
“I’d love for him to stay, because we have the potential to be a much better program than we already are,” Ohio University junior Zac Tuttle said. “But it’s whatever’s in his best interests, and if he has the opportunity to move up, good for him.”
Groce is now in his fourth year with the Bobcats, after serving as an assistant coach from 1993-2008.
He was a part of current Ohio State head coach Thad Matta’s staffs at Butler, Xavier, and Ohio State.
Groce is 85-56 in his tenure with Ohio, leading the Bobcats to two NCAA Tournament appearances in the last three years, with a 3-2 record in the tournament.
“I think he’s done a really good job here,” senior Morgan Otte said. “Making the NCAA Tournament twice now is definitely a big deal.”
All of Ohio’s star players from this season will be back for at least more year in Athens, and junior Marika Bresler says if Groce stays too, the team can make another inspiring run in the postseason.
“I feel that you need to have good team bonding not just among players, but with the coach as well…it would be a really good opportunity for next year’s seniors to make a deep run in the tournament again,” Bresler says.
Social media sites Facebook and Twitter have been extremely active over the past week, with a lot of posts from students related to Groce’s situation.
“Some of the posts have actually been funny,” Tuttle said. “I’m not annoyed with the attention the story’s been getting.”
Groce is currently making $355,000 this season after collecting post-season bonuses included in his contract.
University President Roderick McDavis makes a base salary of $380,000, while football head coach Frank Solich’s base is $330,000.
“I think after the success (Groce) has had in the tournament, his salary should be higher,” Ohio junior Mike Costa said.
Illinois’ head coaching position became available March 9 after Bruce Weber was fired following his ninth season in Champaign.
Weber led the Illini to the 2005 NCAA Tournament Championship Game (a 75-70 loss to North Carolina), but his teams had missed the tournament in three of the last five years.
The Illini started this season 10-0, but ended on a 2-12 run and a 10th place finish in the Big Ten Conference.
Illinois was previously interested in VCU head coach Shaka Smart and Butler head coach Brad Stevens, but both will remain with their respective schools.
Some Ohio students feel that there have been too many rumors going around about the coaching search.
“I’ve heard different things from different sources, so I have no idea whether he’s actually left or not,” Costa said.
“I understand that he could have a whole new opportunity at Illinois if he does go, but I really would like to see him stay at least another year,” freshman Christina Barnes said.