I doubt that new Illinois basketball coach John Groce cares he was the seventh choice or even the 53rd choice to become the Illini head man.
The main thing is he got the job.
According to reports, Butler’s Brad Stevens and VCU’s Shaka Smart were above Groce in the pecking row. Smart would have been the sexy hire but like Stevens, Smart has been saying “Thanks, but no-thanks” to various suitors.
The NCAA tournament always produces at least one mid-major coaching star. His team surprises in the tournament and the big boys respond with a job offer. Smart had some carry over from last year’s Final Four appearance and winning a first round game this season.
But Groce was this year’s star. He took a 13-seeded Ohio team to the Sweet 16. Then Ohio lost to North Carolina in overtime.
Groce knows the Big Ten Conference. He was an assistant to Thad Matta at Ohio State. Groce has earned his head coaching jobs after paying dues as a long-time assistant.
Some say Illinois isn’t a great job anyone. But Groce is obviously happy for the opportunity and he hopes to make it a great job.
The way I see it, the Illinois job is a low risk, high reward opportunity for Groce. He’s in the right place at the right time.