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

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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.

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Your next Illini basketball coach: Ohio’s John Groce

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It’s not official yet, but it’s looking very likely that Illini Nation will have to settle for their sixth choice in a head coaching candidate, a man with a 34-30 career record in the MAC.

Ohio Bobcats coach John Groce could be introduced as Bruce Weber’s successor in the next couple days. And he’s not a terrible hire, it just means that this basketball hiring process has been a complete failure up to this point.

I know that seems contradictory: hiring a decent candidate, when process is fiasco. Let me explain: Croce brings steak, but no sizzle. And maybe the Illini need that meat and potatoes right now over flash. The U.S.S. PR splash hire has sunk big time.

Before this process began, Seth Davis of CBS described the Illini job as “top ten nationally.” Consensus was top 15-20. Today, after getting rejected by two mid-major coaches, and a couple more with mediocre at best credentials, it barely looks top 50.

Here’s why, and also why Groce would actually be a great fit to fix the mess.

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Top Illini head coaching candidates: non Shaka Smart variety

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Well, I didn’t see that one coming. Shaka Smart had an offer of $2.5 million plus, doubling his salary, and a chance at a top 20 national job in what was the nation’s best conference this year. And he had a chance to step up from mid-major to high-major in the Big Ten. I’ve been to Richmond, Virginia a couple times so I can tell you- this denial was shocking.

The only way the decision to stay at VCU could be interpreted as a smart one is if Smart wants to be a Ram for life (and life means a decade or so) like Brad Stevens at Butler, or he’s holding out for the UConn and UCLA jobs; and now only one of those jobs looks to be open next year.  high percentage of Illini nation is hard right-wing politically. They won’t like a coach spurning them to stay at Virginia Commonwealth. “Sounds like a socialist commune!” they’ll say.

Illinois Athletic Director Mike Thomas had a plan: option 1 was Shaka Smart, option 2-11 was Smart.

Now it’s time to move on to option 12.

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