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Ohio coach John Groce continues to be the top focus for the Illinois search, but a deal has not been struck.
A number of sources close to Groce said that the two sides are negotiating. But according to an Illinois spokesperson, athletic director Mike Thomas has reiterated that the process is not over and that there is no set timeline on hiring a coach. The spokesperson said that Illinois will not rush into this decision, despite pressure to get a deal done after public rejections from VCU's Shaka Smart and Butler's Brad Stevens.
From the periphery, the priority of finding the best African-American coach then took precedent for Thomas over finding the best coach, period. [...] Why not Baylor's Scott Drew or Kansas State's Frank Martin? Chris Collins? I can see Grant, but Hamilton and Romar appeared to be names randomly pulled off a list of most qualified African-American coaches who might consider changing jobs.
When a source told me Illinois researched Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins and Duke assistant Jeff Capel, it seemed obvious Thomas had gotten sidetracked trying to serve the wrong constituency. It seemed the two Illinois board of trustees who voted against hiring football coach Tim Beckman because he was white had gotten inside Thomas' head. [...] Meanwhile, as Thomas wasted time chasing Stevens, Kansas State's Martin — a proven winner never considered but was interested in the Illinois job — accepted the job at South Carolina.
"All I know is, it’s going to be an absolute firestorm for the guy when he’s hired," a Chicago prep basketball analyst said. "It could get ugly for him with Chicago people. It’s going to be imperative that he’s careful in putting together a staff."