Illini basketball introduces John Groce: I hope reality is inverse of press conference



You’ve heard the expression “win the news conference.” Well, for the University of Illinois and the Illini basketball coaching hire of John Groce, that ship sailed weeks ago. Any time you get your sixth (possibly seventh) choice in a men’s basketball coach at a basketball school, your news conference is…well, you just hope there’s no pitchforks and flaming torches.

Most news conferences are exactly like they’re portrayed in the “Batman” movies.

The officials up there telling you they’re saving the city are the ones who are actually destroying it. What you hear aren’t really facts; just lip service, platitudes, tautologies and some plain ol’ lies. Because a news conference is nothing more than a grander, living, breathing, audiovisual version of a press release. And a press release is nothing but a propaganda document. The quotes in it aren’t even real. Those are lies too. Lots of people like to make jokes about lawyers, but the actual profession of lying is truly Public Relations. Or as they call it in PC terms “spin.”

And regarding yesterday’s Assembly Hall press conference that’s a good thing! Not a bad thing. I hope they were lying.


First off, the news stories covered during the 20 days from the Bruce Weber firing to the John Groce hiring seemed to have the leakiest sources I’ve ever seen/heard. And those sources kept being right, and a day or two ahead of the University of Illinois. I’ve really never seen anything like that.

Illinois Athletic Director Mike Thomas probably feels very much in over his head right now, or at least wonders how it could have ended up this way, after he decided to spend $4 million on a Bruce Weber buyout. And another $2 million on the Ron Zook buyout. Thomas thought he took a step up from leading the Cincinnati Bearcats program to come to UI, but essentially, he’s right back where he started.

He’s back to his MAC roots, and both of his coaching hires are from Ohio, so it’s like he never left.

Thomas seems like the fall guy right now, and there’s good reason for that. However, think about all the factors beyond his control working against him: the administrative instability/top of the University food chain in chaos, how much the UI coaching jobs were overvalued, how the oiliness of the Chicago Public League recruiting world hurt the value of the hoops gig etc.

I just hope, for the sake of Illini Nation, for Big Ten basketball, for the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois, that some of what was said yesterday was untruth. That’s totally cool. I understand how this works, you have to lie to me on some things, that’s fine.

Let’s look at some of the things Groce said yesterday, which I hope to turn out to be him being….”political:”

“I’m a fit guy”

the only fit is winning. He who wins, fits. Especially after the last five years.

“I’m a glass half full guy.  That’s been my approach

I do appreciate the optimism, it’s needed. But Illinois doesn’t even have a glass right now. Northwestern had a better year than the Illini. NU could be better again next year too.

Groce also answered a question to the effect of “what kind of player do you look for in recruiting?” by saying someone who wants to get a degree, and all that “student-athlete” nonsense that everyone espouses but no one believes. I’m assuming that’s all lip service. Groce knows how the game is played, he recruited guys to Ohio State who left early: Evan Turner, Greg Oden, Mike Conley etc. So he really knows what he has to do….at least I hope!

Now let’s perform the previous exercise we did with Groce, except on Thomas:

“for me the process played out according to plan

You’re kidding, right?

as Coach Groce said, he has, obviously, an interest in talking to Coach Howard, and he has some ideas on what he would like to see the make-up of his staff

Uhm, Jerrance Howard is KIND OF important for recruiting, especially in the CPL. Groce should have made this more of a priority, and the way he handled questions about Howard makes me believe that he’s not coming back to Illinois. And that’s uhm…..BAD for recruiting.

As you know, we engage the services of a search firm.  We had a search committee.

This debacle cost extra time/money/resources?? Please don’t hire them again, they’re very bad at life.


Finally, the local Champaign-Urbana media needs to be called out here. Not just for yesterday, but during the whole process. The Chicago media absolutely whooped your butts on this one. Seriously, it looked like the Washington Post versus Journo 101 students. But I need to call myself out in addition to the C-U local media who horribly dropped the ball.

I should have asked tougher questions. I could have done a better job. I should have been there yesterday.

But a 5+ hour round trip from Chicago for a 45 min press conference? To learn news that we all knew was going to happen on Monday? Who in their right mind would sign up for that/think that’s a good idea?

Maybe I should have phrased those last two paragraphs in PR friendly form, instead of being brutally honest.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports, an official Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports

A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; and he’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and Society of Professional Journalists. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.

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