Shauna Green’s arrival in Champaign has been a lightning bolt.
It’s been yet another sign of the enduring competency of Josh Whitman.
Plucking Green from the University of Dayton has breathed new life into a program that has thrived under her leadership — now No. 21 in the country.
I’m not the first person to say any of these things.
But for a moment, I’d like to harken back to her previous stop.
The University of Dayton is an outstanding academic institution in the Atlantic 10. Despite its name, it’s a private institution. It’s a Jesuit school, like Loyola, Marquette and Georgetown.
According to lore, the founder of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius Loyola, used to end all of his letters with the Latin phrase “Ite Inflammate Omnia.”
Go forth and set the world on fire.
And that is exactly what Green has done since taking over the Fighting Illini Women’s Basketball program. But she hasn’t done it alone.
In Sunday’s win over the Minnesota Golden Gophers, two of the Illini’s top performers were Makira Cook and Brynn Shoup-Hill. Both are transfers from Green’s Dayton Flyers.
As head coach, Green has gotten off to a 15-3 start in Champaign. She has more than doubled the program’s win total from last season (7). With a 5-2 start in conference play, she has won almost as many games as her predecessor, Nancy Fahey, did in her entire tenure (7-77).
And thanks to the trail she has blazed, the Illini won their first game as a ranked team in 23 years.
Illinois is now ranked No. 21, up three spots from last week.
And we’re here for all of this.
So on the court, things are going swimmingly.
But what about the other stuff? The head coach has to be the CEO of the program. The responsibilities aren’t just Xs, Os, victories, and defeats.
After a hard-fought victory in Minneapolis in which her squad just endured a 6:32 field goal drought, Coach Green stopped in a concourse in Williams Arena to meet with Illini fans and alumni. This kind of involvement is a conduit to greater alumni engagement.
In the wake of an offensive bottleneck, there was no public tantrum. There was no whining or complaining. There were no fart noises. There was the CEO of a rebranded legacy organization talking to her key stakeholders with a smile on her face.
Without hesitation and with no hint of a sour end to a tough road game, she took time out of her busy schedule and actively socialized.
That is what a pillar does. Much like Athletic Director Josh Whitman, Green oozes leadership without the cheap sales pitch of a grip-and-grin political candidate. There’s an unmistakable authenticity.
It’s not just Green who has thrived as an influential member of the Illini family. Her coaching staff is populated by people with whom she worked at Dayton. Assistant coaches Ryan Gensler and DeAntoine Beasley along with associate head coach Calamity McEntire have done an excellent job on the recruiting trail as well as on the court.
And the staff shares Coach Green’s dedication to nurturing relationships with fans and communities that support the Illini. They have demonstrated a similarly proactive orientation towards establishing and cultivating the bonds that create rabid, passionate, loyal fanbases.
Alumni and fans throughout the nation have an opportunity to see this tremendous rebuild from the ground floor. When the Illini are in your city, make it a point to see them live. They play a fun, fast, efficient brand of basketball.
And the current level of recruiting is a building block for sustained success.
The formula makes sense.
You start as a principled person with a vision and a set of goals. You surround yourself with people who can help you implement and execute. You take nothing for granted.
And as the headwoman says, you try to go 1-0 every day.
Wednesday’s game against No. 6 Indiana in Champaign is Shauna Green’s next primetime opportunity to go 1-0.