Men's Basketball: Groce Introduced As Illini Head Coach

By
Grant Burkhardt


Updated Thu, Mar 29, 2012 4:29 pm
Photo Credit: 
Ryan M. L. Young
Ohio head coach John Groce hugs his wife, Allison, after his team beat USF and advanced to the Sweet 16.

After a "quick" process, former Ohio head basketball coach John Groce was introduced as the new coach at the University of Illinois on Thursday.

The coach explained the process that led to his hiring.

He said that he was reached by Illinois and Athletic Director Mike Thomas on Sunday. Monday, he was interviewed. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the two sides negotiated Groce's contract. On Wednesday night, Groce was offered the head coaching position at UI and accepted the job.

"This is the first-and-only job I interviewed for since I've been at Ohio," Groce said. "We just felt like this would be a great community, not only to build a basketball program, but to raise our family."

Groce's contract at Illinois is reported to be a five-year deal, worth $1.4 million per year. Groce added that Ohio University made a push to get him to stay as Ohio's head coach.

"They did everything they could," Groce added. "[University President Dr. Roderick McDavis] and [Ohio Athletic Director] Jim Schaus really worked hard to give my family an opportunity to stay."

Becky Watts, the Chief of Staff and Special Assistant to University President Roderick McDavis, told WOUB that, "While there were verbal discussions, no specifics were ever finalized and no written offer was ever presented."

The new Illini head coach appeared at the podium wearing an orange and blue tie. Groce's wife and one of his sons accompanied him to the Thursday press conference. He called the job a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," but was quick to thank his former employer.

"First, I want to thank Ohio University," Groce said, unprompted. "I love those kids (his Ohio players), and they'll always be a part of my family."

Groce met with his players Thursday morning around 9:00 a.m. before he left for his afternoon press conference in Champaign, Ill.

"The only 'con' (to taking the Illinois job) is that I had to walk into that meeting with those kids [his former Ohio players] this morning," Groce added.

The former Bobcat head man got a bit emotional when talking about the fact that his mother, father, stepmother and stepfather were present in the audience. He also gave shout-outs to the "Orange Crush," the Illini student section.

Groce will owe Ohio University $200,000 - that is his stipulated contract buyout.

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