By Joe Henricksen

Jerrance Howard out, search continues

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By Joe Henricksen

Very rare. That's all you can say when you talk about the public infatuation with the final piece of the Illinois coaching staff and what would be done with it.

Will Jerrance Howard stay? Does he want to stay? Do they want him to stay? Who will Illinois replace him with if he doesn't stay or they don't want him to stay?

The more-than-expected drama over an assistant coaching position played out longer than anticipated. And at the end of the day, John Groce wanted a staff of his own. And you know what? The head coach at the University of Illinois should have it his way. He's earned that right and it should be his choice, whether people agree or disagree with his decision.

Groce has every right to put together the staff he feels most comfortable with. And it's his responsibility, as it is with any head coach at any level, to find the best fit for the particular job.

There are people, including myself, who believe it would be beneficial and helpful to have someone with ties to Chicago and recruiting the state of Illinois. The belief here is that it simply speeds up the process of getting acclimated to recruiting the area and gaining support. That's just an opinion. And it doesn't mean go and hire any 'ol assistant coach with Chicago connections just to do it. There is a very small batch, a select few coaches who fit that description and can fill that void. There have been names floated around that were not even realistic when it comes to finding the "right Chicago guy" as this search has unfolded.

If Groce does indeed decide to go that route and hire someone with strong recruiting ties to the Chicago area and Illinois, it's his job to sort through the B.S., figure out what is fact and fiction regarding the various candidates and weed out the Chicago coaching pretenders. And from all indications, Groce has been doing just that. In fact, one of the final few candidates that is right in the mix would be an ideal hire and fit all the criteria.

But the whole Howard and Illinois deal was difficult. Jerrance Howard is a beloved and respected figure by fans, University of Illinois personnel and the current players. Howard is different than most assistant coaches around America in that he truly and honestly does have strong ties and a love for the program he works for. He's not just a hired gun, which so many assistants are as they attempt to move up the coaching ladder. He turned down overtures in the past to stay at Illinois. That made Jerrance Howard different.

Howard grew up an Illini fan as a kid. He played at Illinois and is a graduate, along with his wife Jessica. And he's coached at Illinois for the past five years, putting forth an endless effort and tireless work ethic. Howard had an easy time selling Illinois because he has been such a huge part of the university and the program. His passion for the program and Illinois showed.

Yes, Howard loved Illinois. In the near daily conversations I've had with Howard over the past two weeks, he reiterated that to me time and time again as the rumors swirled every which way. It ate at him knowing there was a real possibility his days at Illinois were over.

There was minimal contact between Groce and Howard throughout the process as the new coach tried to figure out just what he wanted to do with his coaching staff. The delay and uncertainty was very difficult for Howard, right up until the end Monday night.

A couple of weeks ago it wouldn't have been too difficult to sell Howard on staying at Illinois. He was looking for a reason to stay true and committed to Illinois, as he's always done, which is why he will and should always be welcomed back to the program and university.

At the end of the day, when you include all the different dynamics and circumstances, it's probably the best move for Howard and Illinois to part ways at this time. He will land on his feet quickly. But it will never be the job he loves the most.

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8 Comments

Great stuff. Thanks for all the coverage of this Illinois search and insight over last month. Love it.

Day 1. Should have just reached out, made the guy feel wanted to at least see if it would have worked. It would be different if he wasn't an Illnois guy. But he is. And works hard from all accounts.

It appears that the new guy may be looking at this with a larger scope than maybe others are. I do think Howard should've been given serious consideration to stay on. However, when being a local guy is your calling card, it can definitely work against you, especially if the employer has a bigger vision.

To get to the top of the Big Ten, U of I needs to solidly recruit the midwest not just Chicago or Illinois, i.e. Matta and Izzo. They recruit the entire midwest, not just their respective states. And it translates. So the question has to be how does having local ties help you in recruiting the other crucial locales in the midwest. Has he brought in kids from Nap, Detroit, or Ohio? Does he have the ties to do so? If not, he would be limited in his ability to his job effectively, in my estimation. And I can see why he might not be the best fit if Groce's vision is larger than the Chicagoland area.

Obviously Groce doesn't value loyalty. This is a sad day for Illini nation.

Jerrance may be an Illinois guy but do not forget he is a Bruce Weber Illinois guy! not that there is anything wrong with that but Groce should be able to hire his people....its his program, his career and his rear on the line. He should be surrounded by people he trusts, people that will do it his way and create an Illinois program in his vision not hire someone just because the media and fans think he should. Jerrance needs to move on just like Illinois needs to move on. His loyality should be to himself first and what ever is good for him and his family should be his next move. If Bruce calls why not work there they have worked well together, Bruce gave him his first big break and together build that program up. If a chance to work for Calipari, Pitino or some other big name coach that will put him on a quicker road to head coaching gig opens up than maybe he should consider that. How many coaches in this country would love to have those possibilites.

"The head coach at the University of Illinois should have it his way. He's earned that right and it should be his choice, whether people agree or disagree with his decision."

I would agree with this had Groce 'earned' the head coach job at Illinois. He took over a 3rd place MAC East team and got them all the way to 3rd place in the MAC East. Many argue Ohio is the best set-up school. Groce didn't earn the job. It was given by an AD who thinks Ohio sprts are the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Groce's faith in coaches who couldn't beat the MAC East is troubling.

Groce doesn't value loyalty? He hired two of his assistants from Ohio! He had more reasons to be loyal to them than he does to be loyal to Howard, who wasn't his guy in the first place!

ah, DoubtingThomas. I see you are just cutting and pasting your same tired, played out nonsense and ignorance here that you have posted on other sites. almost verbatim. original thought much?

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on April 10, 2012 1:02 PM.

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