March 17 Ask the Sports Editor chat

March 17 Ask the Sports Editor chat

Friday, March 17, 2017 - 1:00pm

Who is the next Illinois basketball coach? Will Isaiah Martinez win another national championship this weekend? What's next for Lovie Smith's program? When will Mark Smith decide on a college? Sports editor Matt Daniels will take any and all questions on a variety of topics at 1 p.m. on Friday. Feel free to submit plenty of questions ahead of time.

Matt Daniels wrote on March 17, 2017 at 1:03 pm
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Afternoon everyone. Matt Daniels here for another weekly chat.

Thanks for the patience this week in moving the chat back a day. Been a busy week around the N-G office this week, with two coaching searches in full bloom and our upcoming All-Area packages set to be unveiled in the coming weeks.

Lots of questions in the hopper already, so I won't waste your time with more chit-chat from me. Let's get going.

Zeb wrote on March 17, 2017 at 1:03 pm

Hey Matt.Glad your not to busy to chat this week. I was wondering what happened to the Tim Finke stories you were putting in the paper. He was writing one every few weeks but I havent seen one for thelongest time and Im pretty sure I havent missed it. Did he not make the cut? I enjoyed it and hope his stories return soon. Thank you.

Matt Daniels wrote on March 17, 2017 at 1:03 pm
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Hey Zeb,

We are looking to get those back going again in the spring. Tim really enjoyed doing them, too, but with his season in full swing at Champaign Central, along with his academics, we decided to hold off on publishing them for a few months.

I know when he first started it, he joked with me and said he wanted to do more than his older brother, Michael, did when he wrote diary entries for the N-G as well.

The plan is for them to be a monthly feature again starting in the spring, and I know I appreciate Tim, along with hopefully our readers as well, for giving us an inside look as his recruiting process unfolds.

Thom wrote on March 17, 2017 at 1:03 pm

This is an outside the box type of a question, but it struck me that if Whitman names a new coach next Monday that coach would probably be in town for the press conference. Whats the chance he coaches the team that night in the NIT? Thanks for continuing these chats. I look forward to all the questions you get.

Matt Daniels wrote on March 17, 2017 at 1:03 pm
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Hey Thom,

That is an outside the box type of question, for sure.

Even if Illinois names a new coach on Monday, the final day the job posting is listed, I would be stunned if said new coach would man the sidelines for the Illini against Boise State on Monday night at State Farm Center.

That would just be too quick of a turnaround for the new coach, plus it seems Josh Whitman wants Jamall Walker to finish this season out. Of course, strange things have happened around Illinois athletics in recent years, but I don't see this happening.

The players would have to adapt to a new style in a few hours, a new philosophy, etc. Plus, the new coach would have a hard time just trying to figure out where to go inside State Farm Center. The new coach, whoever they may be, will have plenty of time to adapt to their surroundings at Illinois. Next season.

 

I.B. Joe wrote on March 17, 2017 at 1:03 pm

Pretty interesting that Abrams played for the Illini before Groce and has now played after Groce. Any indication if he plans to play overseas or will his next game be his last one in organized ball. He seems like a really nice kid.

Matt Daniels wrote on March 17, 2017 at 1:03 pm
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Hey I.B. Joe,

That just goes to show you how long Tracy Abrams has been around Illinois. He told our beat writer, Scott Richey, a few weeks ago that he's been committed to the program since 2009, so that's almost a decade of his life where Illinois has played a prominent role in it.

Abrams, like all other seniors who have played significant minutes at a Power 5 conference, will undoubtedly try to extend his career for as long as he can. Of course, his situation is a bit different than others given his extensive and serious injury histories, plus he's already 25 years old.

I haven't heard definitively one way or the other about if he'll try to possibly play overseas once his time at Illinois ends, but it would seem to me he would want to try until the option isn't there anymore to play professionally.

Hal wrote on March 17, 2017 at 1:03 pm

I'd like clarification on how games work with an Interim Head coach. When Jamall Walker becomes a head coach elsewhere sometime, will these Illini games count on his record or will he start 0-0 overall? How is an Interim Head Coach different than if a coach is sick and misses a game with the flu. Who gets the win (or loss) when that happens? It seems very confusing.

Matt Daniels wrote on March 17, 2017 at 1:03 pm
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Hey Hal,

To the best of my knowledge, the NIT games that Illinois is playing in right now will count towards Jamall Walker's record as a head coach.

That was what happened with Bill Cubit in charge of the Illinois football program for the 2015 season, and again when Vic Koenning led the Illini in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in 2011 once Ron Zook was fired.

If a coach is sick or misses a game with the flu, I'd imagine that win would still fall on the head coach's record since an assistant is just filling in temporarily and hasn't exactly been named an interim coach. Of course, these situations are all dependent on what is going on at each respective program.

All in all, I wouldn't lose too much sleep about this.

Robby wrote on March 17, 2017 at 1:03 pm

Is there a better story out there than Parkland teams qualifying for nationals in 5 of 5 sports they played in so far this school year? And the softball team is ranked No. 5 nationally. Have you ever seen anything like this across the board?

Matt Daniels wrote on March 17, 2017 at 1:03 pm
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Hey Robby,

Good point. Parkland athletics have experienced some unreal success this school year.

Pretty hard to imagine any junior college program in the country having five teams qualify for national tournaments in one school year, with the possibility of more this spring , but that's exactly what the Cobras have done this school year in men's soccer, women's soccer, volleyball, men's basketball and women's basketball.

I'm heading out to Dodds Athletic Center later this afternoon to catch up with both Parkland basketball teams for upcoming coverage in the next few days before they embark upon their quest to win a national title. Be on the lookout for that.

Bryon wrote on March 17, 2017 at 1:03 pm

I dont want to be negative, but it cant be helped. I dont see Illini football with a winning record next yr. and I think it will be tough to attain in 2018. If they go three yrs without a bowl game under Lovie, do you expect him to be on the hot seat ? Whats the realistic timetable for him to reach six, seven wins and still have a job?

Matt Daniels wrote on March 17, 2017 at 1:03 pm
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Hey Bryon,

No worries. You can be as negative (or positive) as you want to be. You're a fan. It's well within your right to feel either way.

The 2017 football season will be an interesting one for Illinois. I'm in the same boat as you. I'd be surprised if Illinois finds itself with a winning record next fall.

The nonconference schedule isn't easy, with Western Kentucky and South Florida as potential stumbling blocks, even with both programs having new coaches.

The Big Ten schedule gets more difficult with a trip to Ohio State added for the first time since 2014, while home games against Nebraska, Wisconsin, Indiana and Northwestern are far from guaranteed wins.

Add in road trips to Iowa and Minnesota, and it's easier to project possible losses rather than wins based on how often the Illini offense struggled last year, how the defense didn't force takeaways at the rate Lovie Smith wants and the influx of new players on both sides of the ball in 2017.

If Smith starts off his tenure with three straight losing seasons, the pressure will intensify and all the good vibes that accompanied his hiring last March might start to fall by the wayside. Of course, that's a long ways off and a lot of speculation right now in March 2017, but no coach, even if you're Smith, can survive long if 3-9 seasons start to add up multiple years in a row.

Illini Basketball Fan wrote on March 17, 2017 at 1:03 pm

Matt -

The e-boards has gone nuts over speculation of who Whitman is going after. I am sure you've read most of them and what's your take?  How close or how far are these boards to Whitman's pick(s)?  Are these leaks designed to throw off the 'scents'? Or designed to get the kind of responses from fan bases before moving further?  What is the probability that the selected HC is a name that no one listed or thought of?

Should there be a poll for fans to select a A) HC who is uptempo and aggressive defense? OR B) HC who is more methodical offensively (e.g., slower temper) and systems defense? (Or whatever you see fit for a poll)

Thanks!

 

 

Matt Daniels wrote on March 17, 2017 at 1:03 pm
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Hey Illini Basketball Fan,

I try to stay away from the message boards. Honestly can't remember the last time I looked at one.

Tony Bennett, Gregg Marshall, Archie Miller, Scott Drew, etc., are names being thrown about concerning the Illinois head coach.

Of course, the only list that really matters is the one Josh Whitman is currently compiling and working through.

With the Indiana job open now as well, it'll be interesting to see what candidates Illinois was initially after that are now more inclined to listen if Indiana comes calling.

 

Anonymous User wrote on March 17, 2017 at 1:03 pm

Should we be worried that the Illini have zero FB commits, and that a couple of good in-state prospects have commited elsewhere? Are they trying to go after higher rated commits, and branchng out to other areas? When do you think we will see our first commit? Also now that Indiana has let go of Tom Cream does this make finding a coach harder with some good jobs open? Is Tom Cream now a candidate for the Illinois job? I saw the other day that Illinois has the 14th most wins in college history, a rennovated $170 miilion arena, and a very good class coming in if it can be held together.  To me that says tradition, resources, and good players here and on the way. With figures being tossed around like $25 million dollars for 5-6 years wouldn't that make us a very attractive destination that would attract a name coach?

Matt Daniels wrote on March 17, 2017 at 1:03 pm
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Hey anonymous,

If you want to be worried in mid-March about the fact Illinois doesn't have any football commits, go right ahead. I'd be more worried if Illinois only has a handful of commits come this winter.

The Illinois coaching staff has an advantage this spring compared to last spring in that they'll have ample time to plan and hit key areas they want to once the evaluation period starts next month. That wasn't the case last year as Lovie Smith and his staff scrambled to just get spring practices done.

Whenever Illinois football lands a commit, you'll know. Right now, that number is still at zero.

The Illinois basketball brand has taken a hit in the last decade, but you're right, the resources and tradition are impressive. We'll see if that is enough to land a name coach, but to me, the most important job for Josh Whitman to do is make sure he hires the right coach and one that can consistently get Illinois back into the NCAA tournament on a yearly basis.

Anonymous User wrote on March 17, 2017 at 1:03 pm

Why do you think Jerrance Howard hasn't been mentioned as a top candidate for Illinois head coach could you imagine if he came to Illinois and retained Jamal Walker those two could dominate recruiting in Chicago and St. Louis area and would prolly come a little cheaper than the rest of the top candidates... I also really like Tony Bennett and Tim Jankovich a lot as a coaches I have to say I think both would do well at Illinois... if you were AD at Illinois right now who would be your top target to coach Illinois basketball? 

Matt Daniels wrote on March 17, 2017 at 1:03 pm
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Hey anonymous,

Josh Whitman has indicated he'd like a coach with previous head coaching experience.

Howard doesn't have that and despite his ties to Illinois, it would be a stretch to see him named as the next Illinois coach right now. Maybe 5-10 years down the road if he leaves Kansas and becomes a head coach at his own program, but not right now.

You're right, Howard would come cheaper than other candidates, but Whitman has indicated money isn't a concern when it comes to finding the new coach.

If I were in Whitman's shoes, the coach I'd go after the hardest is Gregg Marshall at Wichita State. He's done pretty much all he can do at Wichita State and has won at a staggering pace. Yes, the Missouri Valley Conference isn't the same as the Big Ten, but he's won at every stop in his career. The Shockers went 30-4 this season and all that got them was a No. 10 seed in the NCAA tournament. If he went 30-4 at Illinois, the Illini would be a No. 1 seed and an easy pick to reach the Final Four, if not win the whole NCAA tournament.

Anonymous User wrote on March 17, 2017 at 1:03 pm

I'm sure you will be overrun with coaching questions, so I'm sorry to pile on.  I have a couple:

What impact will Indiana's opening have on the Illinois search or do you think Josh Whitman already has someone pretty much locked up?  That seems to be the way he operates, based on his football and volleyball hires.

Do you expect whoever is brought in to try and keep Jamal Walker as his assistant?  Will there be a large pool of money allocated to assistants, like was the case for football?

If an announcement doesn't come as early as possible, does that indicate to you that the next coach is still playing in the NCAA tourney?

Thanks for the chats.

 

Matt Daniels wrote on March 17, 2017 at 1:03 pm
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Hey anonymous,

No worries. Who Illinois will hire as the next basketball coach is the hottest sports topic in Champaign-Urbana these days.

Indiana's opening should have an effect on the Illinois search because if you base the two programs side-by-side with all factors thrown in there, the Indiana job should garner more national attention than the Illinois job. Yes, Illinois might have had more success here in the last two decades than the Hoosiers, but what Branch McCracken and Bob Knight did in building up that program for the better part of 60-some years can't be a thing just for the history books. Indiana hasn't reached that level in the last 20-plus years, but it's still an attractive job and one that many head coaches would likely want to have.

Whitman certainly pulled a fast one last March when he fired Bill Cubit and hired Lovie Smith in a whirlwind 48-hour span, but Whitman said last Saturday that this would be a traditional search.

I think you'll see the women's basketball coach situation shored up before the men's position is filled, and that could be because whoever Illinois hires might still be coaching in the NCAA tournament.

I would try to retain Jamall Walker on the next staff given his ties to the St. Louis area and the fact he was so vital in having Jeremiah Tilmon pick Illinois. But if you read today's N-G and saw Loren Tate's column, it appears Missouri is in the hunt to try to land Walker as well.

Illini Basketball Fan wrote on March 17, 2017 at 1:03 pm

Matt -

I brought this up with Scott a couple weeks ago - with the question - if NCAA football teams are allowed to have expanded support staff with def & off analysts and a recruiting department - could this apply to basketball Div I???  With hypothetically AD Whitman applying the same 'model' ie hiring Monty Williams and having a recruiting department for basketball so to keep recruiting at efficient minimums for Monty - and let his staff or teams to do the heavy hitting in bringing in top players.  Lovie Smith using the NFL model and a Sam Mitchell/Monty Williams to use the NBA model but within the confines of NCAA regulations/parameters.   Scott said that he will look into it (apparently, he is either still researching into it or forgot to do).

Thoughts?

Thanks!

 

Matt Daniels wrote on March 17, 2017 at 1:03 pm
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Hey Illini Basketball Fan,

Interesting concept. The football recruiting efforts under Lovie Smith are sure a lot different than what it was like under Bill Cubit, Tim Beckman and Ron Zook.

I don't know the particulars of the basketball situation as well as football, but it looked like Illinois was trying to go that way with the hiring and new job given to Dee Brown last summer. Don't know if that position will be filled or restructured once the new head coach comes to town, but any help for the head coach and his assistants when it comes to recruiting would be gladly welcome by any staff. Recruiting is a year-round job and people who are dedicated solely to just that would benefit any program.

Matt Daniels wrote on March 17, 2017 at 1:03 pm
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Thanks for all the questions on a variety of topics and thanks for sticking with the chat even if it went off a day later than planned.

Be sure to check out Sunday's N-G for our All-Area girls' basketball team, along with Scott Richey's in-depth look at what Illinois basketball needs to do in order to become successful again in the future, plus lots of other sports coverage (Parkland basketball, NCAA tournament, Loren Tate's latest column).

Enjoy the upcoming weekend everyone and hopefully all your NCAA brackets aren't busted yet.