John Groce

Even though I’d like to consider myself far more than a casual observer of Illinois basketball, click I’ve had an issue this season: More often than not, search I don’t recognize the players on the court.

Nearly every game I find myself saying, generic “Wait, who’s that?!” at least once, as a mysterious new player starts the game or drives to the hoop.

In my defense, Illinois has four freshmen (including one red-shirt) and quite a few new transfers who have been getting some playing time. Also, Coach John Groce isn’t exactly making it easy on us fans to get to know the players, so to speak: He has used nine different starting lineups in 10 regular season games, including the one pictured at the top of this post.

Let’s compare that to, say, Michigan State, a team that is not only an in-conference rival but also the No. 1 team in the nation: By my count, Coach Tom Izzo has used just two different starting lineups in 10 games, and the starters haven’t changed since the Spartans’ second game.

(Admittedly, choosing MSU as a comparison may not be entirely fair — they are the best team in the NCAA currently, and haven’t been plagued with injuries like Illinois has so far this season.)

But speaking as an observer, not having a go-to set of players can make it difficult to get fully behind the team. And, for the players, I imagine it would be difficult to build chemistry.

But maybe switching up lineups has become par for the course for Illinois-based sports. Coach Joel Quenneville of the Blackhawks has been switching up lines trying to find a spark, according to the Chicago Tribune, and Joe Maddon didn’t shy away from changing an order or two for the Cubs last season.

In Champaign, Coach Groce is clearly still searching for a winning combination. From his presser Tuesday:

The Illini improved to 5-5 with a win over Yale last night. Perhaps that starting lineup hit the sweet spot and will stick?

We’ll find out Saturday, as the Illini travel to Chicago to take on UIC in the United Center.

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Coach John Groce, viagra from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Well guys and gals, what can I say. We’re still in the preseason and, basketball-wise, things in the Big Ten conference have been pretty quiet. Everyone in the city seems to be focused on hockey or baseball — myself included. As I type these very words I’m watching the Cubs fall further and further behind to the Mets in game 4.

I was parked in front of the TV last night too watching the Cubs when I noticed that Joe Maddon looked so cozy — albeit slightly depressed — in the dugout in his sweatshirt, baseball pants and cap during game 3. Then I started thinking…most managers/coaches in other sports wear comfortable get-ups on the sidelines, except in college basketball.

Most men’s basketball coaches in the Big Ten are usually wearing full-on suits and ties while sitting on the bench, and I think it’s time that we ask ourselves why. College football coaches are able to wear khakis and sweatshirts on the gridiron, so why should the basketball court be any different?

That’s not to say I’m totally against coaches looking classy or pulling out special pieces for big games or special occasions. For instance, I’m a fan of the orange blazer that Illini coach John Groce (and his predecessor Bruce Weber) pulls out or big games, a la former coach Lou Henson. It’s like getting dressed up for a big business meeting at work. But I see no reason for a coach to be sporting a suit and tie in a run-of-the-mill preconference game.

However, I do think some coaches may get a little too comfortable. Bob Huggins at West Virginia University wears a tracksuit to every game, from what I understand: GQ even did a short piece on his infamous look. Indiana coach Tom Crean has been known to rock a tracksuit from time to time.

And I will say, I’m not a fan of the uber-casual look. It looks like they could have rolled out of bed that morning and just headed to work.

If it were up to me, I’d institute a business casual dress code for the B1G basketball coaches. Think sweaters or button-downs with khakis or slacks. They can still show school spirit and showcase their teams’ colors without feeling stuffy or taking it too far and basically showing up to work in pajamas.

Because, when it comes down to it, these guys coach college basketball. They’re not running a shareholder meeting for a Fortune 500 company, nor are they eating Cheerios on the couch. Their attire should reflect that.

Cheers to being a few short weeks away from the end of the preseason!

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John Groce was introduced as the University of Illinois’ new men‘s basketball coach, thumb replacing the recently ousted Bruce Weber.  And while much of Illini nation may not recognize the name, mind he brings a ton of heart and some impressive credentials. Groce (pronounced GROSS) led the Ohio University team to the Sweet 16 this year in the NCAA tournament before an overtime loss to powerhouse, North Carolina.   He also reached the second round of the tourney in 2010 as a No. 14 seed, upsetting Georgetown.  Groce knows how to win big games, and that’s exactly what Illinois needs.

What You Need to Know:

  • Groce knows the Big Ten.  He was an assistant and lead recruiter at Ohio Statefor four years before coaching at Ohio University. He reeled in big name prospects that contributed to the Buckeyes’ success.

    John Groce

  • Illinois offered the job first to VCU’s Shaka Smart and Butler’s Brad Stevens, but both passed. Many fans feel the Illini settled on John Groce, even though he appeared to be the school’s best option.
  • Since the Illini’s magical 2004-2005 season where they made it to the national championship game, it’s been mediocrity at best. They’ve made the NCAA tourney four times but never advanced further than the round of 32.   Missing the tourney completely this past season, was the final nail in the coffin for former Coach Weber.

Your Take Away Piece:

“Groce may not be that “big name” coach people thought Illinois would land, but he offers a wealth of knowledge and experience.  He’s a fast rising coach with a proven track record.  Recent Illini teams have under-achieved and maybe John Groce is the spark that will get this team to play competitively in the Big Ten.”

What’s Next:

Groce is now officially on the clock. His number one priority should be getting top Chicago area and Midwest high school prospects to commit to Illinois.  He also needs to keep the talented Meyers Leonard from entering the NBA Draft too early.  It’s not going to be easy to return the Illini program to greatness, but let’s give Groce a shot.  After all, he took Ohio U. on their deepest NCAA tournament run in 50 years.  Fresh blood in the locker room is always a good thing, especially blood that can beat Michigan (Ohio U. upset #4 seeded Michigan in the NCAA Tournament this year, and although it is the Ohio State/Michigan rivalry that is legendary, any Ohio team that beats Michigan is held in the highest regards).

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