Illinois reportedly turns focus to Ohio coach John Groce

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Illinois’ coaching search is seeking a new target.

Shaka Smart turned down the Illini last week, while Butler coach Brad Stevens issued a statement of his intentions to stay put. Both coaches became hot targets after their recent NCAA tournament success. So Illinois is after another coach who defied the tournament odds.

Ohio coach John Groce has been contacted by the school about the job, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Groce’s Bobcats are coming off a Sweet 16 run as a 13 seed and also made waves when it shocked 3-seed Georgetown in the 2010 tournament.

Groce, 40, even has a Stevens connection. The two worked together briefly as Butler in 2000-01 under then coach (and now athletic director) Barry Collier. Groce was an assistant while Stevens was the coordinator of basketball operations.

Other candidates whose names have been floated for the job include Duke assistant Chris Collins, Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton and former New Mexico State coach Reggie Theus.

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