Dear new Illini coach ...

Dear new Illini coach ...

To signal in a dramatic change from his predecessor, coach Mike White had Dave Wilson throw a long pass on the first Illini football play in 1980.

The incompletion was cheered. With that in mind, here are some sudden-splash ideas for the new basketball coach.

(1) Just before the first tipoff, blow a kiss to the zebras. Then send the Illini out in a 2-3 zone and stick with it beyond the opponent's first three-pointer.

(2) Watch calmly from a seat on the bench. Sip from a bottle. When the refs blow one, shout out: "Good call!" Save your rants for the timeout huddle. Do those things and no one will remember who won the game (Illinois beat Northwestern 35-9).

(3) Going back, retain Jerrance Howard. This should be your No. 2 assignment and one that you can win. Howard is your connection with players past (Deron and Dee), present and future. Oh, about No. 1: That won't be so easy because sophomore Meyers Leonard appears to have his mind set on turning pro. But it's worth a try.

(4) Hit the juco trail. Quickly, there isn't much time. This hasn't worked particularly well of late, but this squad desperately needs help. You'll probably have two or more scholarships to give.

(5) Toughen the November-December home schedule. If you're going to bring the fans back, they need more than the likes of Loyola, Lipscomb, Chicago State and Coppin State. These weak attractions make up nearly half the home slate.

(6) Don't pay attention to Negative Nellies like those of us who doubt the team will be very good next season. Prove the media wrong.

More advice

Just visited Alice. It's wonderful in LaLaLand. Here's her sage advice for the next UI basketball coach:

— Ask family and friends to take fictitious names for the Internet and flood the message boards with favorable comments about you. It can't hurt.

— Alice says hire an assistant coach from Chicago and let him live there. You don't need another coach on the court and, if Chicago is so important, keep a permanent presence there. And don't waste time in Indiana. There is a wall just east of Danville that Hoosier parents won't allow their cage-playing sons to pass.

— Don't be frightened by the patrol cars, police dogs and flashing fire engines after big Windy City prep games. This is their Wonderland.

— Hit some local bars about 10 p.m. and buy a round for the house. With a $2 million salary, you can afford it, and the recipients will have only good things to say ... forever. Then invite the media to a jeans-wearing night at the Esquire and pick up the tab. It'll be years before a critical word is written.

— If your first name isn't Shaka, don't feel slighted. Tim Beckman wasn't the first pick, either.

— Alice says bring in Nathan Scheelhaase to teach the players how to hand off the ball. Then they won't have to pass. And if they must pass and fail to connect, snip off a finger ... a small one ... and see how quickly the passing improves (actually, the Red Queen says, "Off with their heads.").

— Prepare a pat postgame response and never tell the truth. As Jack Nicholson made clear: "We can't handle the truth."

— Invite Bruce Weber back for a game. It might be a while before he accepts, but it's a worthwhile gesture.

Northern exposure

OK, leaving Wonderland for reality and a favorite subject: Chicago.

It seems that, at least in part, the open warfare between UI President Mike Hogan, the Board of Trustees and the Urbana campus faculty lays bare the disconnect between downstaters and Chicago, where most of the board is from. Top faculty members at Urbana, some of whom have called for Hogan's dismissal less than two years into his contract, strongly disapprove of his and the board's original plan to centralize enrollment and financial aid in the name of racial and geographic diversity and some misguided notion of efficiency. They are concerned that by pulling together the three campuses, admission standards and control of who gets accepted would be watered down.

Remember, though, that a large majority of Urbana undergrad students come from Chicago and its vast suburbs, and the alumni base is in the hundreds of thousands. That said, the Urbana campus and the Chicago campus are worlds apart, and Hogan's short leash by the board reflects the prominence and dominance of this downstate place.

From a sports perspective, it is appropriate for Mike Thomas to seek a greater presence up north. Repeat: Thomas should try in every way possible. For all our differences, Chicagoland remains an extraordinary resource.

But the populous area is also heavily mined by Northwestern and surrounding universities in Wisconsin, Indiana (especially Notre Dame), Michigan and elsewhere.

No university can expect mass loyalty from Chicago. This isn't Columbus, Ohio.

Ex-Illini's name in ring

Declining the gypsy lifestyle, former Illini great Eddie Johnson has ventured into coaching only in summer AAU circles. But he has never left the game, moving from a 17-year NBA career into motivational speaking with broadcasting, primarily in Phoenix with the Suns.

At the same time, he remains deeply tied to his alma mater and is seeking an audience with Thomas to discuss the Illinois job.

"I see names popping up and I wonder, 'Are these coaches committed to Illinois or do they see it as a steppingstone?' I'd like to see Illinois look in-house, and I'd like to be that person."

It is, of course, unlikely Thomas will hire someone not presently coaching, much less someone who has never coached in college. Johnson understands but points out:

"I spent three years in the Grass Roots program, and I know these five-star players. From the coaching side, I have a philosophy and know how to develop a system. And I have a total belief that I can go back into Chicago and be a successful recruiter."

One more name on the long Thomas list.

Loren Tate writes for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
SEMOIllini wrote on March 11, 2012 at 10:03 am

Loren writes:   "Hit some local bars about 10 p.m. and buy a round for the house. With a $2 million salary, you can afford it, and the recipients will have only good things to say ... forever. Then invite the media to a jeans-wearing night at the Esquire and pick up the tab. It'll be years before a critical word is written."

What an ignorant comment directed at anyone critical of Weber (or rather Loren Tate)--Mr. Tate characterizes his critics as bar hopping, jean-wearing boobs.  Amazingly, Mr. Tate has sunk to a new low with his subtle simplification of anyone not in lock-step with him.  If this is what you become after 50 years of being hunched over your typewriter/word processor, believing you and only you have all the answers, Loren Tate should be the poster-boy for a mandatory "30 years and out" retirement policy at the News-Gazette.    

urbanaman wrote on March 12, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Hey, someone needs to remember to put the padlock back on the asylum gates at night. Moses keeps getting out and writing his bizarre columns. A "heads up" to the Gazette editor - if it comes to you on a stone tablet and makes absolutely no sense, don't publish it. It's another piece of crapsmanship by Borin' Tate.

houstonillini84 wrote on March 11, 2012 at 10:03 am


well this article should get some interesting comments. Apparently Tate doesnt know that inner city Chicago is a peaceful paradise and anyone who thinks otherwise is a racist.

Seriously though, the idea of 'combining' the Urbana and Chicago campuses, even in terms of administration and admissions, is a disaster waiting to happen, and will water down the quality of the Urbana flagship school. Which is sad because with the cuts in funding the quality of UI was bound to decline anyway. These other changes will just accelerate that trend and make it more noticeable.

Sad times for my alma mater.Maybe they can change the inscription on the alma mater statue to read: "To thy less qualified children of the future, those of the past send consolations"

voiceofreason wrote on March 11, 2012 at 10:03 am

The fact that you can't see the issue with the ECIMEZ race baiting by Tate and Tupper in these articles is incomprehensible to me.

Can't you see that Tate and his ilk are fearmongering based on race?  He's basically saying that if we hire a black coach we'll get more black players and things downstate will reflect the "war zone" of Chicago.  He's painting a picture that is meant to scare the downstate folks.  Frankly, if he was in a bigger market he would have been fired already.

It's unbelievable that you would even defend his transparent attempts.  The fact that you even highlighted it in your post speaks volumes.

As far as combining the campuses, I couldn't agree more.  UIUC should share as little as possible with the other campuses when it comes to admissions and academic standards.


houstonillini84 wrote on March 11, 2012 at 10:03 am

he didnt say anything like that. Maybe in your fevered imagination that is what you 'saw', but it sounds to me like you are projecting your social views on to someone else's words and coming up with a conclusion that isnt remotely there.

The simple fact is that parts of Chicago are crime-ridden and dangerous. Its not 'racist' to admit that. In fact its shameful to insert a different meaning between the lines because of YOUR mindset and say someone is 'fearmongering based on race'. Come on.

I went to the University of Chicago grad school. Walk 6 blocks in any direction from that campus and you are putting your life in your own hands. I had a friend who was walking near the quad one night and got chased by a gang of thugs and barely made it inside a door to save himself, had that door been locked, he would have been beaten badly or worse. When i would go running along the lake, I would always have to be careful not to wear myself out if I was too far north or south of Hyde Park, and save some energy in case I saw a bad situation and had to make a run for it. Those are things that happened - statement of facts - and have nothing to do with race or fearmongering. Yet my wife and I go running at Rice University here in Houston and never once have we felt unsafe, she can run from our house to the campus and run back, and feel safe the whole way. Yet there are other parts of Houston where we wouldnt go running in a million years. Dont tell me its fearmongering to admit the obvious, that dangerous neighborhoods are dangerous, and Chicago has its share of those places.

voiceofreason wrote on March 11, 2012 at 10:03 am

delete please.

peterborich wrote on March 11, 2012 at 11:03 am

Dear New Illini Coach...ignore Loren Tate...

Bear8287 wrote on March 11, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Dear New Coach,

Here are a couple of samples of Mr. Tate's work:


Tate: Has Illinois become small market?
Wed, 09/07/2011 - 7:06pm | The News-Gazette

— Has there been a worse September for major league baseball?
In a bit of a stretch, what we have is roughly 850 windup games that don't matter. You win, you lose, so what?
The wild card was invented to keep the races interesting and the fans attending, on the assumption that there would always be a close battle behind each league's three divisional champions.
Not so in 2011. Atlanta, far behind Philadelphia, has been the National League's runaway wild card leader. Meanwhile, the loser of the Yankees-Red Sox chase is assured in the AL. The playoffs are virtually set with most of the slots cemented since mid-August.


Definitely a horrible September and I'm sure many Cardinals fans wish that they didn't have to suffer through watching all of those games that didn't matter... and what's all this about Illinois being a "small market"?


Tate: Is this for real?
Sat, 09/10/2011 - 5:20pm | The News-Gazette
A small clarification
My reference to the UI on Thursday as a "small-market" operation referred strictly to football where sub-50,000 attendance and a 20-year record of 91-131 (2 ties) reflects the inconsistencies in recruiting and performance. In the chase for the nation's Top 100 preps, Illinois is seldom in the picture.
This isn't the case in other aspects. The Illini are no way small market when it comes to basketball, new AD Mike Thomas noting that the Illini fall into the top 10 attendance-wise ... and much more is expected on the court. The Illini are legitimate national contenders in volleyball and men's gymnastics and golf, and are big-time when it comes to such important aspects as alumni base, academic support, training facilities, sports medicine and playing sites for tennis, soccer, baseball, etc.


Kudos to whoever called Mr. Tate on his malarkey. Why shouldn't a team that falls into the top 10 attendance-wise expect to have a team that's consistently ranked in the top 25?  It was that way for 9 out of 10 years from the 1996-97 season to the 2005-06 season.  The fact that the last 6 seasons Coach Weber's teams have finished the season "not-ranked" says a lot about why he's not returning to coach the Illini.

Go Illini!

JohnUI82 wrote on March 11, 2012 at 1:03 pm

I see that Mr. Tate is no better at trying to be clever or humorous than he was when I graduated from UI 30 years ago.

OKOMIS wrote on March 11, 2012 at 1:03 pm

 Guys, Tate is a “one story” hack…. Bash Chicago, Chicago sucks, all evil comes from Chicago, Chicago is seedy… he’s written and re-written basically the same story 10 times in the last month… we get it, you don’t like the inner city…wink wink..code for?... at his age it has to be hard to come up with something original… let’s focus on what’s important… our next head coach… I haven’t been this excited about our Illini in years… don’t worry, the old school cracker, Adolf Rupp’s of the world are dying off like WW II vets.

houstonillini84 wrote on March 11, 2012 at 5:03 pm

...and when all the old school 'crackers' are dead, who will you blame then? I am sure you will find another scapegoat by then. Inner city Chicago would be a crime-free paradise if only it werent for 'cracker' columnists like Tate, right?

OKOMIS wrote on March 11, 2012 at 6:03 pm

Don’t worry, there’s always some evil lurking out there.. but now we have our hero, “Super Mike Thomas” to save the day and protect us…

Moonpie wrote on March 11, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Another lame, odd, and demeaning column from Moses Tate. He's the Ricky Santorum of sports columnists.All sorts of ugly thoughts and prejudices lurking barely below the surface.

He hates Chicago. Anything beyond the soybean fields is just too modern and threatening to Saint Tate. And he couldn't make it beyond the soybean fields.

His 1957 writing has just never been "on the come."

OKOMIS wrote on March 11, 2012 at 2:03 pm

 1957??  wow, your being generous…

houstonillini84 wrote on March 11, 2012 at 5:03 pm

"Too modern"?? uh, we're not talking about the Loop or the Gold Coast or the tech corridor in the western suburbs, we're talking about the Chicago Public Schools, in particular, the ones that produce BCS conference talent. Quite a difference, dont you think?

And if Tate couldnt make it beyond the soybean fields, then you are the guy who couldnt make it beyond the guy who couldnt make it beyond the soybean fields. And thats much more pathetic, LOL.

1IlliniFan wrote on March 11, 2012 at 11:03 pm

Moon pie is the biggest racist.  Always playing the race card, always calling people names and comparing things that are RIGHT to be wrong and the left to be right.  I wonder if you have ever been proud to be an American.  What is wrong with the tea party - they want less taxes.  Why would anyone want a bigger government, more taxes, more welfare, higher gas prices, more illegal immigrants that get free health care.

The RIGHT is supposed to be the racist but its the left always looking at color.  Like those racist on the board that protested because the new football coach wasn't black.  So much for being colored blind.  The LEFT only sees color which is ironic don't you think.

read the DI wrote on March 12, 2012 at 2:03 pm

This is still an Illini comments section, isn't it? Can we please drop all the political bs and get back to bashing Old Man Tate?

Jam wrote on March 11, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Nice article Loren.  Just like an effective pitcher, mix up the pitches and your critics will strike out with their awful criticisms.  Today you through a slider.  What will the next aritcle bring, i suggest high inside to back them away from the plate.

Bear8287 wrote on March 11, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Today you through a slider.

"Through" a slider?

Jam, your comments are "through the looking glass".

Be sure to remember to duck on those high and tight fastballs.  ;-)

read the DI wrote on March 11, 2012 at 7:03 pm

Old Man Tate is so dumb, he thinks the Illinois Board of Trustees is paying Mike Thomas millions to take advice from the N-G message boards. What a maroooon. Doesn't he know we just call MT at home?

pitch9 wrote on March 11, 2012 at 8:03 pm


I think you forgot one of the most important pieces of advice.  "Make sure you never fail to miss a post-game call-in show on WDWS.  I know it's hard to believe, but the people who call in to those shows have probably forgotten more about basketball than you will ever know.  I realize most of them have never coached a basketball game at any level, and many have never played on a floor not made of asphalt or concrete, but they are the experts on all things basketball and you would be wise to listen to their every word.  If given the opportunity they would doubtless take the Illini to the Final Four at least 4 out of every 5 years.  Their advice is priceless and you will do well to listen to every single word."


By the way, the fact that some refer to you as Moses is quite a compliment.  He was a true leader of men and spoke face to face with God Himself.  The more fitting Biblical name to apply to many of your detractors might be Balaam.  For those who don't know, he was the guy who had a Donkey that was smarter than he was.


Collatine wrote on March 11, 2012 at 11:03 pm

A lot of fun satire in there. People need to lighten up, have a sense of humor, and stop getting offended by something a columnist wrote in jest.  

aaeismacgychel wrote on March 12, 2012 at 9:03 am

I'm with you on this one.  I gave an audible chuckle reading the "bring in Nathan Scheelhaase to teach players how to hand off the ball, then they won't have to pass" advice.  I thought it was quite humorous.  Also very much liked the advice on how to deal with refs (blow kisses to them before tipoff) and getting friends and family to take fictitious names and make posts en masse on these message boards expressing support.

It's a fun little article for sure.

aaeismacgychel wrote on March 12, 2012 at 9:03 am

Deleted duplicate post.

jhutch wrote on March 12, 2012 at 9:03 am

What Loren and some of you posters don't seem too understand is that it is not The University of Champaign-Urbana, it is The University of Illinois. The reason for it's location in your sleepy burg is that when it was founded, you had to get there by horse. The founders put it in the middle of the state so everyone could get there relatively equally. If the University was being founded today, where do you think it would go? Three out of four people in Illinois live within 50 miles of Chicago.

The U of I is OUR school as much as it is yours, if not more. Yes, Chicago has some dangerous areas. So does St. Louis or any major city. Yes, some of the best basketball players grow up in these areas. This is nothing new. 

read the DI wrote on March 12, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Agreed. Champaign now has sections that the police don't even dare enter. So I don't think I would bother trying to make it out as some whitebread Mayberry where the only worry is whether Barney should get a gun with bullets.

houstonillini84 wrote on March 12, 2012 at 3:03 pm

who was making it out like that?? And please, 'whitebread'? Show a little class.

read the DI wrote on March 12, 2012 at 5:03 pm


Bear8287 wrote on March 12, 2012 at 5:03 pm

And please, 'whitebread'? Show a little class.

Yeah, he probably really meant to say "cracka"...  :-)


houstonillini84 wrote on March 12, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Then why the huge uproar over admitting the obvious, that Chicago has dangerous areas and there are academic issues with many top players from the public schools. I agree, it has been true for decades. Its not like it just happened. It was an issue when I was in school, and it is an issue now. It was an issue for Lou Henson and it will be an issue for our new coach. Tate is just admitting the obvious.