2:49 PM CDT, March 29, 2012
The new Illinois coach said he wants to get the “best players who are Illinois guys.’’
Me, I'd rather see the Illini get Kentucky guys. But that's just me.
Then the first thing John Groce said about an Illinois guy is “a desire to earn a degree.’’
No, you want someone with a desire to raise his draft status. You want a one-and-done guy like some of the best players you recruited to Ohio State. You want a bunch of them.
If you want to win big, that is. I presume that’s the object of the exercise.
As for how the Illini are going to win, Groce said his style is to attack.
“We’re like the boxer that tries to knock people out in each of the 10 rounds,’’ Groce said. “Offensively, we try to play as fast as we can.’’
OK. Fine. Good plan. Play fast, make mistakes fast, get the ball back fast.
But then, Groce offered that “adaptability is important’’ and he would “try to find the style that fits them best.’’
If he’s saying that about the roster he’s inheriting, then fine. But if he’s still saying that in three years, then we’re probably listening to a new coach.
Groce described his new position as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,’’ which is what you expect from a, what, sixth choice. I’m not sure Illinois is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity if you’re any good, however. Kansas, Bill Self will tell you, is closer to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
But amid the typical college blabber, Groce got something right. Perhaps the most insightful comment Groce offered came after asking why Illinois can’t become the standard of excellence among the Big Ten.
“By doing that, you become a player on the national stage,’’ Groce said.
That’s what you say when you’re not a player on the national stage. That’s what you say when you’re a coach without a national profile. It came in a backhanded manner, but it displayed a spasm of honesty.
If Groce had claimed that Illinois was part of the national discussion, he’d have been hooted out of his first news conference, and you know that some coaches would played to the locals that way.
But Groce didn’t. Good for him. That might’ve been the one reason he didn’t totally lose the news conference.
He also didn’t come off as goofy as new Illinois football coach Tim Beckman talking about lasagna night, so, that’s a plus.
But what he says isn’t as important as what he does, and what Illinois’ sixth choice has to do now is sell top-10 talent on the Big Ten’s ninth-place team.
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