Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman has made a second coaching change in just three days. The University announced on Tuesday afternoon that Matt Bollant has been relieved of his duties as head women’s basketball coach effective immediately. Bollant, who was hired by former AD Mike Thomas in 2012, compiled an overall record of 61-94 (22-62) during his five seasons in Champaign. The Illini never received an NCAA tournament berth and haven’t made the postseason since a WNIT appearance back in 2013.
Bollant had one year remaining on his contract, and according to the press release, he’ll receive a buyout payment of approximately $450,000.
Illinois makes women's basketball leadership changehttps://t.co/LNdUctB7GY— Illini W Basketball (@IlliniWBB) March 14, 2017
Statement from Josh Whitman:
“I would like to thank Matt Bollant and his staff for their many contributions to Illinois Basketball during the last five years. They have faced great adversity, both on and off the court, yet have greeted every day with unyielding optimism and unmatched effort. They have maintained the well-being and personal growth of the student-athletes under their charge as their foremost priority and have been exceptional ambassadors for Illinois Athletics in our community and in basketball circles across the country.
“Without question, the program is in a better place today than it was when they arrived. Our expectations for women’s basketball, however, match those that we have for many of our other sport programs: to compete at the highest level, year in and year out. I am excited to embrace a future for Illinois Women’s Basketball where we realize the program’s full – and virtually unlimited – potential.”
In July of 2015, Bollant and his program became the subject of a lawsuit that was filed by a group of former players. The plaintiffs, who were originally seeking $10 million in damages, brought forth allegations of physical, psychological, and mental abuse by members of the coaching staff. Illinois eventually came to a $37,500 settlement agreement in April of 2016.
With this announcement, Whitman has effectively completely washed his hands of the Mike Thomas era. The three main hires from the past regime — Tim Beckman, John Groce, and Matt Bollant — have all been fired within the last two calendar years, meaning the new AD is about to fully put his mark on the athletic department. It’s a good thing, too, because those three coaches weren’t exactly winning.
Big Ten records of Mike Thomas top hires for #illini— Jeremy Werner (@JWernerScout) March 14, 2017
Tim Beckman: 4-20
John Groce: 37-53
Matt Bollant: 22-62
The timing of this move is rather curious because Illinois posted the official men’s basketball opening to their job board on Monday. I’m sure Whitman is fully capable of doing so, but why have two major searches occurring at the exact same time? This is pure speculation, of course, but it makes you wonder if things have been progressing quickly behind the scenes for the men’s job. Either way, we’ll have to wait until at least March 20 for any official news on that vacancy.