It didn’t come as surprise to many when it was announced earlier this weekend that John Groce had been relieved of his duties. Now the question that remains is who AD Josh Whitman has in mind to replace him. Over the past month we’ve previewed thirteen replacement candidates and gone into detail about their pros and cons. Now it’s time to bring all their profiles together and wrap it up to see who should be the next basketball coach at the University of Illinois.
In case you’ve forgotten who we’ve talked about, below is a list of all the candidates with links to their in-depth articles. Along with their names is their ranking based on my personal opinion. These rankings aren’t scientific and are obviously up for debate, but I think these tiers accurately represent how the majority of the Illinois fan base feels about these coaches. `
1. Tony Bennett
4. Scott Drew
6. Bryce Drew
7. Monty Williams
8. Fred Hoiberg
10. Lon Kruger
11. Kevin Keatts
12. Greg McDermott
13. Frank Martin
14. Joe Dooley
15. Jeff Capel
UPDATE: It doesn’t look like Monty Williams is considering the opening.
Now that we’ve laid out the names, let’s summarize what each candidate brings to the table in several different categories.
Would they listen to an offer from Josh Whitman?
Yes: Bennett, Cuonzo/Frank Martin, Scott/Bryce Drew, Marshall, Buzz Williams, Keatts, McDermott, Dooley
No: Archie Miller, Fred Hoiberg, Monty Williams, Lon Kruger, Jeff Capel
It’s been speculated for quite some time that Archie Miller isn’t interested in leaving Dayton, nor is he interested in taking the Illinois job. Fred Hoiberg might have interest, but the NBA season doesn’t end until far too long after Whitman wants to make a move. Monty Williams appears to be out, and Kruger and Capel are both cemented into their roles at other power-five programs. Everyone else seems like they would at least pick up the phone if Whitman came calling.
Do they have connections to Illinois?
Yes: Cuonzo Martin, Fred Hoiberg, Lon Kruger
No: Everyone else
Cuonzo is from central Illinois and has had interest in the program for a long time. You have to put Hoiberg on the ‘familiar with Illinois’ list simply due to his time in Chicago with the Bulls. Lon Kruger obviously has ties to the Illini, having been their head coach for four seasons.
Is their salary affordable?
Yes: Kevin Keatts, Joe Dooley, Jeff Capel, Frank Martin, Greg McDermott
No: Everyone else
The names lower down on this list are obviously the more affordable ones, given their ties to smaller, mid-major programs. Guys on the other end of this spectrum include Tony Bennett, Archie Miller and the Drew brothers, all of whom have huge salaries and contracts that would need to be eaten up by Whitman. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get done, however.
How are their recruiting ties/abilities?
Good/great: Tony Bennett, Cuonzo Martin, Drew brothers, Archie Miller, Buzz Williams, Kevin Keatts, Greg McDermott
Poor/subpar: Gregg Marshall, Monty Williams, Fred Hoiberg, Lon Kruger, Frank Martin, Joe Dooley
Bennett and Miller are both known as good recruiters, but the best ones on this list are probably Scott Drew and Cuonzo Martin. They’ve brought in top 50 prospects annually and would potentially be game-changers if they could recruit the Chicago area. On the other side of things, Hoiberg has made it known that he “hates recruiting,” while inexperience and age are a factor for Kruger, Martin, Dooley and Williams.
How much college coaching experience do they have?
Rookie: Monty Williams, Kevin Keatts, Joe Dooley
Veteran: Everyone else
Williams has never been a collegiate head coach, but he no longer appears to be an option for Whitman and company. Kevin Keatts and Joe Dooley, while college coaches, haven’t been in the game too long and haven’t had a job at a major program yet either. Everyone else on this list has had major college head coaching jobs.
What are their odds of being Illinois’ next head coach?
Good/great: Cuonzo Martin, Scott Drew
Medium: Tony Bennett, Bryce Drew, Gregg Marshall, Buzz Williams, Kevin Keatts, Joe Dooley
Poor/not good: Archie Miller, Fred Hoiberg, Lon Kruger, Greg McDermott, Frank Martin, Jeff Capel
Martin and Drew are the only ones who have had confirmed, publicly-acknowledged interest in the Illinois opening (whether it be now or in the past). Everyone in the middle would listen if Whitman called them, but it would probably take a large salary and great pitch to get them to consider accepting the position. The remaining candidates are left in the “not good” category, which doesn’t mean it would be impossible for one of them to land the job, but if they did it would mean someone else above them on the list declined.
So there’s our list. We’ve broken down each candidate in detail and previewed their odds of landing the job. Who do YOU think should be the next Illini men’s basketball coach? Drop by in the comments section below to share your thoughts.