In the sporting world, it’s very rare that one gets blown away by an interview. It’s a land of cliche and corporatespeak,where the overwhelming majority of media opportunities are extremely forgettable. With a backdrop like this, the intellectualism and ambition of Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman becomes even more striking.
If you’ve ever say down with Whitman one-on-one you can tell within the first few seconds of meeting him that he’s on the ball.
He’s a man with a plan, and everything about his presentation as speaker is a reminder of how he was valedictorian of his high school class in West Lafayette, Indiana.
There is no doubt that newly minted Illinois basketball coach Brad Underwood was also instantly impressed by the ambition and intelligence of Josh Whitman, as the hiring process was done very expediently.
“It happened very quickly, it was a whirlwind,” Underwood said of the process from courtship to closing of the deal.
“Josh is a tremendous salesman. His pride in this university is incredible, and it exudes. I put tremendous value and stock in that. He didn’t have to sell me.”
— Paul M. Banks (@PaulMBanks) March 21, 2017
Underwood completes the trifecta of replacement hires (football, women’s basketball and men’s basketball) that Whitman had to make in order to clean up the messes made by his predecessor Mike Thomas. The previous Athletic Director made disaster hires in all three sports, but this week saw Whitman replace the remaining two and thus further establish his imprint on the department of athletics.
From the top on down, everyone, in all the Illinois athletics departments, are doing their job better than ever before. The level of quality is higher than ever and it all starts at the top.
Men’s basketball is the banner program of Illinois athletics. It’s both the pride and the bellwether, and thus the standards are higher.
“Men’s basketball coaching searches are incredibly intense, due to the timing and the high amount of public scrutiny,” Whitman said on the podium today.
Whitman described the search with three adjectives, and all of them are requisites for success: It was comprehensive, confidential and fast. In men’s basketball those things are absolutely crucial for successful navigation.”
The men’s basketball hiring process moves faster than in other sports.
“Certainly other situations and other positions allow for a more extended process, more traditional process, the men’s environment is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, so it’s important that you know how to navigate that,” Whitman said.
Then there was all the “FAKE NEWS!” that accompanied the Illini basketball coaching search. Way too many false narratives to list out here, but the “Cuonzo Martin rejected Illinois” and the “this was the University’s fourth choice” storylines standout from the herd.
“A lot of patently false info that finds its way into the universe. Makes it difficult,” Whitman said.
As much as I like the Brad Underwood hire, I may like the fact that NONE of the "my sources" but know nothing crowd saw it coming even more
— Paul M. Banks (@PaulMBanks) March 18, 2017
When asked in the breakout session if there were any specific rumors, or let’s call them “alternative facts” espoused that amused him the most he responded:
“No, I really shouldn’t dive into that. I wasn’t out there reading the papers every day but people from our staff were coming back to me saying you’ll never believe what’s out there now and this is what’s been said.”
“Needless to say 95% of it was completely false”
“A lot of it was a little comical, knowing the full story myself, and I think it’s inevitable in today’s world. People crave information and I love the passion of our fans, how much people care about our program,” the A.D. continued.
“And that part (the propagating of falsehoods) is unavoidable in today’s day and age.”
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, partnered with FOX Sports Engage Network. and News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times and NBC Chicago.com, contributes to Chicago Tribune.com, Bold, WGN CLTV and KOZN.Powered by Sidelines Follow paulmbanks