Former Illinois basketball head coach John Groce will be the new head coach of the Akron Zips, according to a report Tuesday afternoon from ESPN basketball insider Jeff Goodman.
Former Illinois coach John Groce is close to agreeing to deal to replace Keith Dambrot at Akron, source told ESPN.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) April 4, 2017
On March 11, Groce was relieved of his duties as Illinois head coach after posting a 95-75 record during his five seasons in Champaign. Groce’s teams went 39-53 in conference play, which was one major reason for his departure.
Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman replaced Groce with former Oklahoma State and Stephen F. Austin head coach Brad Underwood just one week later. That move was met with widespread acclaim from members of the basketball media.
For Groce, a move to Akron represents a return to the MAC. Groce’s last coached in the Mid-American Conference for Ohio University, where he tallied an 85-56 record over four seasons from 2008-2012. After a thrilling Sweet Sixteen run in 2012, including an upset win over the Michigan Wolverines, Groce left his Ohio Bobcats for Illinois.
At Akron, Groce will replace Keith Dambrot, who was coach from 2004-2017. Akron made the NCAA Tournament three times during Dambrot’s tenure and won the MAC regular season title four times. The Zips failed to make the NCAA Tournament in 2017 after losing in the MAC Tournament to Kent State.
Akron would later lose in the second round of the NIT to UT Arlington, so surely Groce, whose team reached the third round of the NIT in 2017, represents a major upgrade.