For all the up and down emotions of the last few weeks as the Illini coaching search was underway....it was refreshing to actually have a press conference and have the man who got the job address the fans and media all around the state of Illinois on Thursday afternoon.
I have to say that John Groce made a very nice first impression. He came across as passionate about joining the Illini program....but also didnt seem overwhelmed that he had just landed a very nice opportunity in the prestigious Big Ten Conference.
It probably helps that he has been living and working in the Big Ten "footprint" for several years now. Working as an assistant at Butler and Xavier ...as an Associate Head Coach under Thad Matta at Ohio State...... and then as the head man at Ohio University....he understands the conference and appreciates the history of the University of Illinois. He has recruited Big Ten Country down through the years and knows his way around the corn and soybean fields of Illinois as well as the streets of Chicago. He has landed top recruits from Indianapolis (Greg Oden, Mike Conley)....but also worked with Chicago-area superstars like Evan Turner.
If you saw his Ohio team play in the NCAA Tournament (Sweet 16 this year....nearly beat Carolina in the round of 16)....you saw an agressive, attacking team that played extremely hard on both offense and defense. It will be interesting what he does with the Illini talent on hand when fall practice starts.
All in all....I thought it was a good start for the new Illini coach. I look forward to getting to know him better in the months ahead.