It has been an odd offseason for Illinois Basketball.
After a season that featured the most conference wins in program history and a top-seed in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005, the Illini have lost all three assistant of their coaches; All-Americans Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn committed to the NBA Draft; Giorgi Bezhanishvili is heading to pro-ball; and Adam Miller walked off to LSU.
But let’s focus on those assistants.
Orlando Antigua and Chin Coleman took their talents to John Calipari’s Kentucky program in early May. The Illini began refilling the holes by hiring former Illini basketball player Chester Frazier as an assistant coach.
And then last week it was announced that Illini assistant and former Gonzaga basketball player Stephen Gentry is going back to Spokane to help coach the national runners-up Bulldogs.
Gentry released a nice message for Brad Underwood and the Illini fans, but Illinois had some work to do as a program.
Thanks! @IlliniMBB @IlliniAD @CoachUnderwood pic.twitter.com/cmueNoG9rD— Stephen Gentry (@CoachSGentry) May 21, 2021
That work began with an elevation of Geoff Alexander to assistant coach.
Alexander has coached with Brad Underwood on the Illini staff since 2017, and prior to that he served as an assistant at the University of Evansville for five years.
Alexander’s love of basketball stemmed form watching Illini greats like Kendall Gill and Kenny Battle, and attending Lou Henson’s basketball camp growing up.
“The University of Illinois is my dream job,” Alexander said in a Zoom call this week. “It’s my pinnacle job. It’s what I watched growing up. It’s what I know. I think it’s the best of the best.”
Throughout those years and various other stops in Alexander’s coaching career, he has more than earned this opportunity.
Underwood repeatedly used the work “loyalty” when describing Alexander and what he means to the program, and his highest compliment for his newest assistant was in reference to his ability to recruit.
“He’s a tremendous, tremendous evaluator,” Underwood said. “That’s something not everybody has.”
After losing Antigua and Coleman’s recruiting expertise, Alexander knows he has some big shoes to fill — and is up to the challenge.
“I’ve been recruiting the 15 years before I got here,” Alexander said. “I love building relationships. I’m anxious to get back on the road. I love that part of it. Meeting people, evaluating. All those things, I enjoy doing.”
When Geoff Alexander and the Illini are back in the same building in a couple of weeks for summer workouts, the Illini staff and roster will just about be set after a tumultuous offseason.