By Joe Henricksen
There are very few college basketball assistants who can legitimately say in all honesty they have landed their dream job. Paris Parham, who is now officially an assistant at Illinois under John Groce, can.
As college coaches scurry around looking for their next job and try to climb the coaching ladder, there are a lucky few who land in a spot they are familiar with and had always hoped and envisioned they would be coaching at. When talking with Parham -- even before and after being hired -- his desire for the Illinois job and the respect and passion he has for the program was abundantly clear.
"It's without question my dream job," says Parham, who rattles off Illini basketball highlights and players from the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s with enthusiasm. "When you grow up in the city of Chicago playing basketball, the dream is to go play for the major state university and in the Big Ten. Now I have the chance to be a coach at Illinois and sell that dream.
"There is no other job I could put myself in that better suits me as far as my background and the relationships I have built over the years."
In addition to being a part of Illinois basketball, what also excites the Chicago native is working for Groce and being a part of a staff he was immediately impressed with during the interview process.
"There is a family atmosphere with this staff," says Parham, who says he was fortunate to have a similar type of coaching atmosphere in his five years Illinois State. "This is a close, connected staff. I have always believed that a close staff that respects and trusts each other is a recipe for success."
Parham believes in Groce. And he believes in the product, which he says is a strong academic university and an Illinois basketball program that plays in one of the nation's elite conferences. He wants to help Groce and his staff get that message out, especially to those players who are born and raised in the city, suburbs and around Illinois.
He states Illinois has everything a recruit needs: a high level of high-major basketball, great fan support, a television audience, a powerful conference in the Big Ten, great academics, close to home for family and being "THE state university."
"It's all about the power of the I," says Parham. "That means something, it's significant. The University of Illinois gives them [players] a chance to have an opportunity to play at a place where everyone already knows their name. You have a following that you've built all through high school with the fans in this state that can continue throughout their college career here. And because of those ties to this university, you have now put yourself in a better position to have success in life after basketball."
When the unofficial word of Parham's hire became public last week, there was an outpouring of support from around the city and state. Parham, who played and graduated from Dunbar on the city's South Side, was truly thankful.
"I was overwhelmed by all the support from the many club coaches and high school coaches in the city, suburbs and around the state," says Parham. "I am so appreciative."
That support Parham immediately received surely helped Illinois. The announcement last week that Parham would be named the assistant at Illinois quickly paid dividends. A pair of the top young prospects in the state who Parham has strong connections to, Curie junior Cliff Alexander and Simeon sophomore D.J. Williams, were on campus a couple of days later.
"It's still surreal for me because of the job itself," says Parham of his infatuation with the school and program he grew up watching. "It's a chance to go out and try and make a mark and add to the Illinois basketball history."
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