Sporting Illini sweatpants and a heather grey hoodie with several noticeable guacamole stains, current University of Illinois Head Basketball Coach John Groce answered the door of his Champaign home with enthusiasm.
“Favorite time of year, ya’know?!” he beamed with his signature grin, “took Thursday and Friday off just to be a real lazeabout. No recruiting, no calls on the stabbing, no gameplanning for next year, nothing. Just me, a few colds ones, and the guac. Got the big screen set up. Wing Street is on the way, but hey, want some guac?”
After a disappointing and injury-plagued 15-19 season, Groce received a vote of confidence from recently-hired Athletic Director Josh Whitman.
“Oh yeah, Tender Whittles is a real solid dude—really saved my bacon this year. Hey, you think bacon would go good with some guac? Anyway, I know Purdue housing us by 30-something last week is going to leave a bad taste in a lot of peoples’ mouths, but let’s not forget, we also lost to Indiana by 34, Michigan State by 25, Indiana AGAIN by 27 and Maryland by 26. That’s not even mentioning our loss to Chattanooga! So, like…I’m not really sure where I’m going with this.”
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Just like most sports fans, Coach Groce made his NCAA Tournament picks with his head as well as his heart.
“Providence only beat us by 2, so I don’t know why anyone thinks they’re doing anything,” he says with a chuckle. “But,” he smiled, “It’s hard not to root for Tommy up there at Michigan State. I’ll never forget the time—there I was just outside Denzel Valentine’s house with my bowl of recruitin’ guac when he comes out with a big ole’ smirk on his face. ‘Better luck next time,’ Tommy said. I’ll never forget that wink. Just love the guy. Go State, I guess!”