Two Steps Forward.......Three Steps Back.

Two Steps Forward.......Three Steps Back.
The rebuild of the Illinois football program continues as they drop a tough 34-31 loss in overtime to Purdue.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Transition Phase

We are now a little over a week since the Fighting Illini bowed out of the Big Ten Tournament, and as a result, Bruce Weber getting fired from the head coaching duties, thus completing AD Mike Thomas' "trifecta" of removing the football coach, the women's basketball coach, and the men's coach all in the same season. Actually, it was only 104 days since Thomas took the job that all of this has happened. Thomas has hired a search firm to assist in the quest for Weber's successor. I'm sure you have all heard of the top candidates rumored to be coming to Champaign, but I thought I would break each one of them down and explain why each would either be a good fit or not.

The top name on everyone's list it seems is current Virginia Commonwealth coach Shaka Smart, who just bowed out of the NCAA Tournament by losing to Indiana in the third round. Smart has been the frontrunner for pretty much everyone, given his coaching style and his young age. He would be the perfect fit in Champaign, but it remains to be seen if he is interested in leaving VCU for greener pastures and more money to boot. There have been rumors abound that suggest that Smart is interested in taking the job, to those that simply state that he is not wanting to leave VCU, since he has it pretty good out there in Richmond, Virginia.

If Smart doesn't end up taking the job, there are other candidates that would be more than suitable. The first person that comes to mind is current Alabama coach Anthony Grant. Grant fits a couple of key characteristics in he is a minority hire, and also that he has inroads into the city of Chicago. Grant wouldn't be the flashy hire like Smart would be, but he would definitely be more than servicable. Another person that has been mentioned more than once is current Marquette coach Buzz Williams. Since Marquette is still playing in the NCAA Tournament, Thomas cannot and probably will not speak to him until his team is done, and Williams would certainly be a unique personality to replace Weber as coach. Still another person that has been receiving considerable mention for the head coaching position is Duke assistant Chris Collins. Collins, the son of former NBA star Doug Collins, is from Chicago, so he would have the experience needed to recruit that area. Perhaps the main stumbling block for Collins would be his lack of head coaching experience. According to the job description that was posted last week detailing the job, Thomas is looking for someone with previous head coaching experience, something that Collins lacks. It remains to be seen which direction Thomas will go in when it comes to naming a coach, but it sounds like it is Shaka Smart's to turn down. Will Shaka make the Smart move? Only one person probably knows the answer to that question, and he isn't saying anything at the moment.

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