Illinois basketball coach John Groce might be in a hurry to get things started with Illinois basketball but won't get in a rush to name a coaching staff.
CHAMPAIGN -- Illinois basketball coach John Groce might be in a hurry to get things started with Illinois basketball but won't get in a rush to name a coaching staff.
Groce flew back with his family to Athens, Ohio, on Friday evening to grab more of his things before returning to campus over the weekend, and he skipped the Final Four to get started on building his Illini program, starting with his coaching staff.
"I don't want to be so quick we make a rash decision,'' Groce said. "I want to make sure we put the best collection of people together. We have to make sure we have the right people on the bus.''
Howard, the interim coach, didn't attend Groce's introductory press conference, but they spoke before Howard left for the Final Four on Friday. Howard will likely hear other lucrative offers during what's developed into a coaching job market during the national finals weekend. It appears a long shot that Howard stays with the Illini.
According to early indications, Ohio assistant Jamall Walker will likely join Groce with the Illini. Walker recruited D.J. Cooper from Chicago Seton Academy after working as an assistant at Saint Louis, his alma mater.
Another name to consider is Travis Steele, Groce's brother, who is a Xavier assistant. The former AAU coach of Eric Gordon, Steele was hired as an Indiana video coordinator in 2006 under former coach Kelvin Sampson and likely helped sway Gordon to the Hoosiers during that tense recruiting battle.
Meanwhile, Bobcats assistant Ramon Williams formerly worked as a DePaul assistant. Assistant Dustin Ford, the brother of Bradley coach Gene Ford, is the leading candidate among Groce's assistants to take over the Bobcats.
Florida State assistant Dennis Gates is a Chicago native long mentioned as a possible Illini assistant candidate. According to ESPN, Chicago Simeon coach Robert Smith hadn't received contact from Groce by Friday afternoon.
Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas said he won't play a role in forming a staff.
"(Groce) has some ideas on what he's like to see in the makeup of the staff,'' Thomas said. "Head coaches should have the lattitiude to bring in their own assistants. I believe he will have a staff that has experience in Chicago.''
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