Illinois Fires Head Coach John Groce

(CBS) After five underwhelming seasons, Illinois coach John Groce’s time is done in Champaign.

The university has fired Groce, it announced Saturday. The decision comes on the heels of Groce’s Illini failing to make the NCAA Tournament for four straight seasons.

“I want to thank John Groce and his staff for their tireless efforts over these past five years,” Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman said in a statement. “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. Most importantly, he loves his players unconditionally and helps them develop into young men prepared for the next stages of their lives. Our student-athletes are having a positive experience, achieving record heights in the classroom, and leaving campus as proud graduates with bright futures.

“Under his leadership, regrettably, we were not able to sustain the level of competitive excellence that we expect at the University of Illinois. But that should do nothing to detract from the many wonderful things John has done on behalf of Illinois Basketball during his tenure. We wish John, Allison, and their three children nothing but the best, and we thank his staff and their families as well for their many contributions to our program. All will be missed.”

Groce compiled a 95-75 record (.559) in his five seasons, including an 18-14 mark this year as the Illini finished ninth in the Big Ten. Illinois lost 75-55 to Michigan in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday.

Illinois went 23-13 in Groce’s debut season of 2012-’13 and reached the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament but couldn’t replicate or progress past that level in the ensuing four years. The Illini failed to finish better than seventh place in the Big Ten in Groce’s five years.

Illinois’ 15-19 campaign in 2015-’16 that Groce oversaw was just one of four losing seasons for the school in the past 39 years.

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