The Illinois Fighting Illini's search for a head coach has been a strange trip from the start, so it figures it won't come to an end without a little more turmoil. Monday afternoon, reports surfaced that Ohio Bobcats coach John Groce had been hired as the next coach of the Illini. A press conference was supposedly scheduled in Champaign for 3:00 p.m. A plane was set to go pick up Groce and his family and take them to Champaign until the hiring process hit a snag and the flight was canceled.
While it still appears Groce will be the next coach of the Illini, it isn't official yet.
Separate sources gave the Chicago Tribune different answers on why the process has been delayed. One source told the Trib's Shannon Ryan there had been a hangup in contract negotiations with Groce, while another said one or more board of trustees members intervened and slowed down the process because they were were displeased with the selection of Groce.
It was reported weeks ago that many board members favored the hiring of an African-American coach after the football program hired Tim Beckman, a white man. Neither the football or basketball team at the University of Illinois has ever been coach by an African-American.
Board member James Montgomery, who voted against the hiring of Beckman in part because he is white, told the Tribune:
"I'd have been much more satisfied if they had been able to sell (the job to) Shaka Smart."
Smart was reportedly the Illini's first choice, but the coach elected to stay with with the VCU Rams. Illinois was also rejected by Brad Stevens, head coach of Butler.
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