Bernstein: Illinois Misses On Top Candidate

By Dan Bernstein–
CBSChicago.com senior columnist

(CBS) The protocol seems similar, but this time missing the intended result. And now Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman is in uncharted territory.

Whitman fired basketball coach John Groce on Saturday, just as he did football coach Bill Cubit a year ago, and by operating on his own instead of arming himself with the legal protections of an executive search firm, it seemed he was ready to pull off another magic act like the one that made Lovie Smith appear in front of our eyes. He had that all lined up when he made his move, obviating the usual public debate and rumor-mongering.

That looks like what he was trying to do again, only to have Monty Williams turn him down.

Illinois was “willing to make Monty Williams one of NCAA’s top paid coaches, but he’ll pass. He’s focused on prompt NBA coaching return,” Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported Saturday via Twitter.

The Chicago Tribune’s Shannon Ryan also wrote that, “According to a source, Whitman unsuccessfully attempted to entice former NBA coach Monty Williams to take the job Friday.”

So Williams is content to bide his time in the Spurs’ front office, confident another opportunity waits soon in the pros. And Illinois is headed to the NIT with an interim coach at the helm, already scrambling for a second choice to be its next leader.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s “Bernstein and Goff Show” in afternoon drive. You can follow him on Twitter  @dan_bernstein and read more of his columns here.

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