Groce leaves Ohio U. to take over at Ili­nois

The Washington Times Daily - - Sports -

CHAM­PAIGN, ILL. | Fresh out of Tay­lor Univer­sity in In­di­ana, John Groce once taught math at a small­town high school while help­ing coach four bas­ket­ball teams.

That hec­tic pace might be easy com­pared to the work that awaits him at Illi­nois.

Groce was in­tro­duced Thurs­day as the Illini’s coach, just days re­moved from lead­ing Ohio Univer­sity to the Sweet 16, the Bob­cats’ deep­est NCAA tour­na­ment run in nearly 50 years. He will be tak­ing over a team that has missed the tour­na­ment three of the past five years.

With his wife and two young sons nearby, Groce,, 40, said he sees noth­ing but po­ten­tial at Illi­nois

“I thought to my­self, ‘Illi­nois, why not? Why can’t we be­come the stan­dard for ex­cel­lence among those Big Ten teams com­pet­ing for cham­pi­onships, earn­ing the right to do that?’ And by do­ing that you be­come a player on the na­tional stage,” he said. “The an­swer was, we can.”

Asked about skep­ti­cism among some fans and oth­ers — af­ter Virginia Com­mon­wealth’s Shaka Smart and But­ler’s Brad Stevens passed up chances to take over at Illi­nois — Groce said he wasn’t sur­prised.

“If you don’t have thick skin in this pro­fes­sion, you’re in trou­ble,” he said. “There’s go­ing to be skep­tics.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ken­tucky coach John Cali­pari has taken Ken­tucky to the Final Four in each of the past two sea­sons af­ter reach­ing the Elite Eight in 2010. The Wild­cats will take on ri­val Louisville in the na­tional semi­fi­nals Satur­day.

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