Rapid Reaction: Smart rejects Illini offer
The question now is whether Illinois and its athletic director Mike Thomas have a legitimate Plan B.
There have been a lot of names thrown around for Illinois’ search, but no one else has appeared to be a prime target like Smart, who was undoubtedly the big fish Illinois was using all of its resources to try to reel in.
Among the other have names linked to Illinois’ search have been Alabama’s Anthony Grant, Baylor’s Scott Drew, Butler’s Brad Stevens, Duke’s Chris Collins, Stanford’s Johnny Dawkins, Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton, Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall, Kansas State’s Frank Martin, Memphis’ Josh Pastner, Ohio’s John Groce, Simeon high school’s Robert Smith, Washington’s Lorenzo Romar and Reggie Theus.
It could be anyone’s job after Smart passed on it.
Race could still play a factor in Illinois’ hiring. The Illini have never hired an African-American head coach in men’s basketball or football. Thomas has attempted to do so in both sports since being hired last year, but Kevin Sumlin reportedly declined Illinois’ football offer and now Smart has done so in basketball.
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Powers is an award-winning journalist and has been reporting on preps, colleges and pros for publications throughout the Midwest since 1997. He joined ESPNChicago in May 2009 and lives in Chicago.
Rittenberg joined ESPN.com in 2008 after four years at the Daily Herald, where he covered sports at Notre Dame, Northwestern, DePaul and several other colleges. He lives in Chicago and writes for the Big Ten blog.
Bennett joined ESPN.com in August 2008 after nine years at The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., where he covered college sports and the University of Louisville beat. He lives in Louisville and writes for the Big Ten blog.
Fortuna joined ESPN.com in 2011 after working for MLB.com and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, where he covered college sports. He grew up in New York and is a Penn State graduate. Fortuna's Notre Dame blog is here.
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