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John Groce Officially Hired

John Groce as the head coach at Akron  

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  1. 1. What do you think of John Groce?

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7 hours ago, ZipsVoice said:

Another Cookie sighting!!!  Women soccer match today at Cib Cadet field....5 trays!!!!



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I've been absent from the board for a while, but have been following consistently ever since.


I was a bit shocked to hear KD was leaving, but I am not disappointed or upset. Our program rose to new heights because of him, but it certainly plateaued many years ago. Even he knew that. It was time for him to move on while he was still respected in the profession and young enough to start a new tenure elsewhere.


That said, the timing was ideal because Groce was available and interested. Aside from being my doppelganger, Groce is young and has experience winning in the MAC and the NCAAT with a MAC team. New pinnacles await!


I think in five years or so, we will find that John Groce is to Keith Dambrot as Caleb Porter is to Ken Lolla. No more excuses about the MAC being a one bid conference or P5's not scheduling us. The bar has been raised.

Edited by UAZipster0305
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On 4/5/2017 at 11:30 AM, mes102 said:

An OU grad's tweets about Groce to Akron





This is exactly how I would have felt if Groce ended up as an Indiana assistant which was reported as a possibility. There is no way I would be on a Hoosier forum right now I can promise you that.



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On 4/5/2017 at 4:20 PM, odhgibo said:

Mike Thomas was quoted in the PD story:  "[W]hen you go through any experience, you should be a lot smarter and a lot better for it."  That reminded me of a former boss who was fond of saying, "Good judgment is the result of experience.  Experience is what you gain from bad judgment."


I suspect that Groce arrived in Champaign-Urbana thinking he had the world by the tail.  I hope that he now feels fortunate to be able to continue doing what he loves.





I think there is a lot of truth in this post. Groce never struck me as a person who is a climber for fame and fortune sake. I really believe he would have been happy at Illinois for a long time because he had all the resources necessarily to achieve his life goals, personally and professionally. Maybe an opening at Indiana or Ohio State would have tempted him at some point, but he primarily wants to win the NCAA Tourney like everybody else. He learned some valuable lessons at Illinois, no doubt. Some due to poor judgement, but I would argue he learned far more about building a program and competing for elite talent in an unethical and impatient business. I'm sure Coach Groce has even said at his meet-and-greets that he feels blessed to be able to continue doing the job he loves and that he found a great home at the University of Akron. But I don't believe for a moment that he has lost sight of that NCAA Championship dream. Groce is wired to compete on the biggest stage. And this might surprise you, but that actually bodes well for Akron basketball. If the support from fans and the administration matches what will hopefully be great success on the court, you just might become the next Gonzaga.

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On 4/6/2017 at 7:21 PM, ZachTheZip said:


At Illinois, he had four players arrested in one year (one was previously arrested the year before) in the 2015-2016 season.


http://writingillini.com/2016/03/17/illinois-basketball-kendrick-nunn-arrested/  Kendrick Nunn - Domestic Battery

http://writingillini.com/2015/08/22/illinois-basketball-darius-paul-dismissed-from-illini/  Darius Paul - Under-aged drinking and resisting arrest. Got kicked off the team. Previously arrested for vandalism, public intoxication, and resisting arrest while on a trip to France.

http://writingillini.com/2016/02/19/illinois-basketball-leron-black-arrested-now-what/  Leron Black - Aggravated Assault

https://writingillini.com/2016/03/12/illinois-basketball-jaylon-tate-arrested-enough-is-enough/  Jaylon Tate - Domestic battery



I'm still making my way through past comments. This one I feel needs to be addressed, because integrity does matter.



First of all, Groce runs a tight ship. He treats his players like men and expects them to act accordingly. He can't be with them around the clock even if he wanted and sometimes 18 to 22 year old student athletes act irresponsibly. When they do violate team rules they will sit. I have seen Groce sit a guy just long enough to break his consecutive string of starts and I have seen him bench a leading scorer for 3 games. This sort of thing is almost always kept in-house between Groce, that specific player and maybe the team, but he demands a culture of discipline and accountability. As a fan it can be frustrating because we want to win and there is our best player riding the bench for being habitually late for practice.


Now when events off the court become a legal matter, Groce will initially take the wait and see approach. So much is out of his hands at this point. However, he will work with the Athletic Director to gather the facts and determine how to best support that player through the legal process. Depending on the charges, they may try to work with the court to negotiate a resolution which is appropriate for the community, university and student athlete. It is usually after the court has rendered it's verdict that the Athletic Director and Groce will lay down their punishment. And there will be consequences for one's actions, it's just a matter of degree.


For example, Leron Black, a power forward at Illinois got into a dispute with a club bouncer he thought was being disrespectful to his girlfriend and pulled out a pocket knife. It appears he realized pretty fast just how stupid that decision was because he tried to ditch the knife. That was the first offense on Leron's record so he received probation. I believe he also had to make public apologies, Community Service, fines and he was suspended 6 games at the start of the following season. Leron is currently a redshirt Junior at Illinois and a starter. That whole experience seems to have scared him straight.





Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate were close friends and teammates at Simeon High School, Chicago. So they were tight and always together on campus. And it's not a surprise that they got into trouble together. However, long story short it was Kendrick Nunn who was guilty of domestic violence and Jaylon Tate was falsely accused. The whole thing dragged out all Summer long, but the average fan could have solved that mystery. Nunn is intense and was our enforcer on the court (See video link below of Nunn retaliating for something that happened earlier in the game to teammate Malcolm Hill). Nobody was going to punk our Illini teams with Nunn around and we loved his toughness. But turning that temper on your girlfriend is not exceptable and he was eventually released from the team. Jaylon Tate on the other hand is just a super nice guy and would never hurt anyone. The only thing Tate was ever guilty of was not being able to shoot the basketball. His charges were completely dismissed.





That leaves us Darius Paul. I wrote earlier about Coach Groce learning from poor judgement. Some in Illini Nation will say that the whole Darius Paul chapter was one huge mistake because he ended up getting arrested on two separate occasions and costing us 3 years of scholarships while never playing in a game. You may remember Darius Paul because he played power forward his Freshman year for Western Michigan. He is the younger brother of former Illinois guard Brandon Paul who is currently playing for the San Antonio Spurs. Darius was a late bloomer coming out of high school, but put up some solid numbers while at Western Michigan. He then transferred to Illinois and during his sit out year his substance abuse problem surfaced. He was given plenty of warning and most players would have been sent packing after that first arrest on campus. But this is where it gets complicated and everybody will have to answer this question for themselves. It comes down to this, how loyal are you? First of all, Coach Groce is very loyal. Second, the Paul family are awesome people. And third, Brandon Paul as a senior bought into Coach Groce's program that very first year and as a result excelled to whole new level (Meet Brandon Paul below). Darius got a second chance based on the relationship his brother and his family had formed with Groce and the basketball program. He agreed to being sent down to Texas for a year to get cleaned up, face his challenges with mentoring and play ball at the Junior College level. He was then granted the second opportunity and came back to Illinois the following year. Unfortunately, he then got himself arrested again on a pre-season trip to Europe which finished his time with Illinois. This one hurts because it was such a wasted opportunity for everyone, but especially for Darius. You can decide if you think Coach Groce was too loyal. I thought the Paul family was worth doubling-down on at the time. But in hind-sight this is just one more thing that piled up against Groce and his program.








I learned something through that whole explosion of off-court drama myself. There is a popular belief that winning cures everything. And there is definitely some truth to it because fans will gladly turn a blind-eye to infractions when their beloved is on a roll. But sometimes a lack of success on the court/field actually leads to problems off the court. The cases outlined here other than for Darius Paul's addiction issues occurred right after a basketball season had ended again without a trip to the dance. These are guys who are used to winning, for whom basketball has become their sense of identity and self-worth, playing for a University of Illinois that expects to make the NCAA Tournament annually. This was the third straight year they would be denied and to no fault of their own. Each year they left it all on the court. They were talented enough to make the post-season 4 out of the 5 years Groce was coach at Illinois, but a rash of injuries and tough breaks were too much to over-come. And it was something different every season. The pressure and frustration surrounding these guys was off the charts. There is never an excuse for beating a woman or pulling a knife, but sometimes context matters. Something that Coach Groce who was dealing with the pressure himself was trying to get across to these young men was that their lives are bigger than the game of basketball. Getting good grades and pursuing a career, doing community work, being a good friend, family member and teammate are all things that ultimately define us as people. It's my opinion these guys were caught up in the moment and it got really, really ugly.


I know this post was long-winded, but I needed to write it even if nobody spends the time to read it. Unfortunately, off the court issues are going to happen. It's ultimately how the players, coaches and staff handle those issues that really matters.


Thanks much.










Edited by Illini Zip
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Awesome. Between this, the "Happy Thanksgiving" clips, and the "Thank you for coming to tonight's game" clips, I'm really impressed with the interest in University and community involvement from this team. Go Zips!

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