We Aren’t Who We Thought We Were March 25, 2012
I’m so incredibly depressed. And we don’t even know who the new Illini basketball head coach will be. I’m not depressed because the hire is underwhelming – we haven’t hired anyone yet. I’m depressed because of who the hire won’t be.
“I am very grateful for the support and belief in the coaching staff and basketball program that comes from the very top of our university’s leadership — President Rao, Athletic Director Norwood Teague and the VCU Board of Visitors – as well as our phenomenal fans,” Smart said. “There are great things to accomplish at VCU and I’m looking forward to building on the successes of our program and university.”
“I am happy and extremely grateful to be the head coach at Butler University, and I am already looking forward to next season and the start of our postseason workouts in April.”
Shaka. Stevens. Grant. Hamilton. Romar….all said no to Illinois. Groce would be sixth choice, at least. Tough sell for new AD to fan base.
Unreal. Wake me up. This is a nightmare.
Whoever our coach is – and other signs this evening point to John Groce of Ohio University – he is the sixth choice. I have no words.
But I have words. We’re not who we thought we were. We can produce statistics that place us somewhere in the 12-15 range in college basketball history. 5 Final Fours. 1st all time in Big Ten wins. 9th in collective AP poll appearances. Give me a half hour and I will fill it with a powerpoint presentation on the potential of Illinois Basketball to be a top-10 program. I’ll go through the number of NBA players born within a 3 hour radius of campus (with maps!). I’ll show pictures of the Illini fans showing up for a Final Four shootaround. I’ll tell you all you need to know about the Next Great College Basketball Powerhouse.
And now it will be coached by our sixth choice. SIXTH. This isn’t happening.
I know I’ll hate this post in a few months. Someone will be the basketball coach (we’re going to get a coach, right?), and I’ll hate that I already labeled them as “sixth choice”. Wait – I didn’t label them that. David Haugh did. And, soon, the national media. So I’m in the clear. Good.
SIXTH CHOICE. Coaches reportedly turning down EIGHT FIGURE RAISES. (Here – I’ll type that out for you: $XX,XXX,XXX). I can’t believe this is happening.
OK, I have to force myself to look for positives. These thoughts in my head are just too dark. OK… well… see… Auburn! Auburn went through this! When Auburn hired Gene Chizik as their football coach, they missed on a few high profile targets, had to endure Alabama fans laughing for days, and eventually settled on Iowa State’s coach, who was 5-19 in his two seasons at Iowa State. As I recall, there were petitions trying to get senators involved to block the hire. And then they won a national championship.
So there it is! Transitive property! All tire fire coaching searches result in national championships! All hail Reggie Theus and the 2017 University of Illinois National Champions!
I’m on a roll. Let’s see… Brady Hoke! Michigan pursued Les Miles, and he said no. They pursued Jim Harbaugh, but he said no. So they settled on a coach from Ball State/SDSU, and their fans melted down. And then they went to a BCS bowl his first year. And Frank Haith! Hated, and then Missouri finished the season ranked #3.
YES! It’s true! All tire fires have a happy ending! What? There are dozens and dozens of examples where teams whiffed on their first few choices and it set the program back for years? Hires like Matt Doherty at North Carolina, John Pelphrey at Arkansas, and Billy Gillispie at Kentucky became absolute train wrecks? I’m not tryin’ to hear that, see? Tire fires for the win!
I need to settle down. This isn’t over – we’ve simply been officially turned down by the two young guns from last year’s Final Four. There are plenty of coaches out there, and I need to wait and see what transpires before I walk any close to the edge. It’s just that we’re probably on our sixth choice. There’s no way around that. The laughter of fans from every bordering state (Indiana, Missouri, Iowa) is palpable tonight. Mighty Casey has struck out (and is in an 0-2 hole in his second at-bat).
I have a friend who sent me a text that said “If we hire a MAC coach who is 34-30 in his conference, I’m done watching Illini basketball.” I’m not there yet. Who am I kidding – I’ll never get there. It’s not possible to not watch Illini basketball. It’s been my thing since I was 10 years old. I’ll never not do it.
But the events of today – the fact that we were pantsed in the center of the cafeteria for the second time in a week – do not speak well to the possibility of those games going in our favor. We have negative momentum right now, and the weight of this disaster will hang over the new coach, whoever he is, for a long time. You can’t escape “sixth choice”. Not with Chicago media already reveling in the ridiculousness.
We simply aren’t who we thought we were. We had two big fish on the line, and we let ‘em off the hook.