If new Illinois AD Mike Thomas ever makes a decision and stops chasing coaches who know Illinois isn't the great job he thinks it is, the Fighting Illini might eventually have a coach for next season.
Since firing Bruce Weber earlier this month, the Illinois coaching search has been nothing short of a circus, led by Thomas playing the role as the ultimate ringleader.
Butler's Brad Stevens said, twice, that he's wasn't interested. VCU's Shaka Smart said the same thing.
Now the arrow is pointing at Ohio's John Groce, who wouldn't be a bad hire, but would be one of those you-might-be-sorry-because-you-just-hired-me-after-one-solid-NCAA-Tournament-run selections. Groce has a great pedigree, coaching under Thad Matta and flexing his recruiting muscle while at Ohio State (he was instrumental in recruiting Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr., and Dequan Cook, among others) as well as at Ohio (D.J. Cooper anyone?).
The Chicago Tribune is citing sources saying Groce will be taking the job. It's not a bad move, just not the best one.
Nevertheless, if I'm a big-time school looking for a coach who has been able to build and sustain success at multiple mid-majors and would probably jump at the chance to coach in the Big Ten, Groce isn't exactly the guy.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the best fit for Illinois: Gregg Marshall.
The guy is a great coach and his system would give Illini faithful flashbacks to the Flyin' Illini days. Check out Marshall's track record at Winthrop and Wichita State. The numbers are the definition of a guy who can flat out coach and would be a long-term home run for Illinois.
The one knock would be that Marshall's teams are 1-7 in the NCAA Tournament. The truth is that only this year's Wichita State team received a "favored" seed while Winthrop's highest seed was a No. 11. That isn't to say Winthrop never could have swiped the 15-over-2 or 14-over-3 upset that others can make, but expecting that to happen is a little much. The one year Winthrop got an No. 11 seed it knocked out Notre Dame in the first round.
This is also the perfect time for Marshall to bolt. The top five scorers from this year's 27-6 Wichita State team are all graduating.
In comparison, the only seniors on Illinois' team are Sam Maniscalco, who transferred from Bradley using the my-school-doesn't-offer-this-masters-program loophole, and Jean Selus, who most people have never heard of.
If Marshall took the Illinois job and convinced Meyers Leonard of the obvious - he needs another year or two in the college game if he really wants a memorable NBA career - Illinois would join Indiana in the 2012-13 Big Ten Championship discussion. Marshall is that good of a coach who will undoubtedly get the best out of the underclassmen as well as seniors-to-be Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson.
Marhsall just turned 49, so he has plenty of successful years of coaching ahead of him. This isn't a stretch hire. This is the right move that only a stupid athletic director with a coaching vacancy wouldn't make.
Your move, Mike Thomas. It's time to end the circus.