Hire learning: Big success post-Shaka
Hire Learning: Each day during the Illinois coaching search, beat writer Paul Klee will provide insight on the process:
So Shaka Smart wasn't entertaining overtures from other schools, including Illinois?
He's a gem, certainly, a 34-year-old with all the tools to star in the profession. But other schools that courted the VCU coach might tell you it can work out quite well in the end.
Missouri, Maryland and N.C. State expressed interest in Smart after the 2010-11 season. The coaches who eventually were hired experienced remarkable success in their first seasons:
— Missouri's Frank Haith. Won 30 games and was named USBWA National Coach of the Year — and, yes, suffered a first-game NCAA tournament loss to Norfolk State.
— Maryland's Mark Turgeon. Had the same record as Illinois (17-15) — despite working with a roster that featured seven scholarship players and six walk-ons.
— N.C. State's Mark Gottfried. Led Wolfpack to Sweet 16 — and recruited a school-record three McDonald's All-Americans in his first go-round of recruiting for N.C. State.
Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas met with interim coach Jerrance Howard on Thursday to get a status update on the current Illini. Howard and the players are scheduled to begin spring workouts Monday at Ubben Basketball Complex. Players have been out of town this week on spring break.
"We're not wasting any time," Howard said Friday. "(They are) getting to work right away."
An erroneous report from an Indiana Hoosiers fan site Friday set off a wave of rumors that Butler coach Brad Stevens was headed to Illinois.
The report, originating from a website operated by Rivals.com, stated Illinois had contacted Stevens. He later told ESPN.com he had been fishing Friday and the Internet reports were false.
"There is absolutely no truth to it," Stevens told ESPN.com.