Illinois basketball has fired head coach John Groce after an underwhelming five seasons in Champaign. Assistant coach Jamall Walker will act as the interim coach for any further postseason games in the NIT as athletic director Josh Whitman begins his national search to find a full-time replacement.
According to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, though, the Fighting Illini can already cross one name off of their potential list. Monty Williams will reportedly pass on the job despite an offer that would’ve made him one of the top paid coaches in the nation.
Sources: Illinois willing to make Monty Williams one of NCAA’s top paid coaches, but he'll pass. He’s focused on prompt NBA coaching return.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) March 11, 2017
We had previously written about Williams in February as there were some serious rumors about potential interest between the two sides.
Obviously, this isn’t the type of news that Illinois wanted to hear just minutes after their big announcement. However, the main takeaway here is that Illinois is apparently willing to break the bank for their next head coach. The Fighting Illini already made a similar commitment with the football program when they signed Lovie Smith to a 6-year, $21 million deal last March. With this new spending attitude in mind, it’s exciting to think about options that may not have been considered realistic a few months ago (i.e. Tony Bennett). We can’t wait to see how things unfold over the coming weeks.
While we wait for more news out of Champaign, check out our 2017 Coaching Carousel Story Stream, which features in-depth profiles of over a dozen potential candidates for the Illinois job. What are your thoughts on Groce’s dismissal? Who do you think should be the next head coach? Drop by in the comments below to let us know your thoughts!