Illinois has fired head coach John Groce after five seasons in Champaign, the athletic department announced Saturday.
The Fighting Illini were 95-75 in Groce’s tenure, reaching the NCAA Tournament in his first season, then missing out four straight. This season Illinois went 18-14 and now appears unlikely to reach the Big Dance after losing to Michigan 75-55 in the Illini’s Big Ten Tournament opener on Thursday.
“I want to thank John Groce and his staff for their tireless efforts over these past five years,” athletic director Josh Whitman said in a news release. “In many ways, John is a model leader. He exudes optimism and tackles every day with unbelievable energy. He has the highest integrity. He has been an active presence in our community and a strong public ambassador for Illinois Basketball.”
Groce, who signed a contract extension in 2014, will be paid the $1.7 million he has left on his contract, the school’s release said.
Before arriving at Illinois, Groce was coach at Ohio University, where he went 85-56 and won two Mid-American Conference championships in four seasons.
Groce’s teams at Illinois suffered from numerous injuries and some disciplinary troubles, as well, and often found themselves on the bubble.
This year, the Fighting Illini appeared to have a shot at reaching the NCAA Tournament this season before losing to Rutgers to close the regular season and following that up with the throttling at the hands of the Wolverines.