Taylor Alumnus John Groce Named Head Basketball Coach at Illinois

By Eric Smith Published: Mar 30, 2012

John Groce photo by Eric Smith

Taylor University alumnus John Groce was introduced as the new men's basketball coach at the University of Illinois. Groce is the first Taylor graduate to be the head coach of a men's basketball program in the Big Ten Conference.

"I am extremely pleased to introduce John Groce as our men's basketball coach," Illinois Director of Athletics Mike Thomas said. "It became very clear during the process that John is a terrific fit at the University of Illinois. He has won at a high level wherever he has coached and he has some great mentors. John has recruited and coached at the highest level, and I have no doubt he will be an outstanding leader for the young men in our basketball program."

Groce most recently spent four years as the head coach at Ohio University, where he took the Bobcats to a school record 29 wins this past season and to the Sweet 16 as the top story in this year's NCAA Tournament before falling to North Carolina in overtime of the Regional semifinal.

He previously spent time as an assistant coach at Taylor, North Carolina State, Butler, Xavier, and Ohio State.

"I am thrilled to be the basketball coach here and feel like this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our family," Groce said. "The Midwest background and values we share makes the University of Illinois a perfect fit for us and we're looking forward to making an impact on the basketball court as well as in the Champaign-Urbana community."

Groce, who received his mathematics degree at Taylor in 1994, spoke highly of his Taylor experience during the press conference.

“Taylor shaped and molded me into who I am as a person first, and then as a coach second, but also as a husband and as a father.”

The Indiana native played basketball three years for the Trojans and later coached for three seasons under Taylor head coach Paul Patterson, a NAIA Hall of Famer and the all-time wins leader in Indiana college basketball history with a current total of 713 wins.

“Coach Patterson has been a tremendous mentor to me," Groce said. "Other than my parents, he has impacted me about as much as any male in my life. So I'm thankful for that.”

During his time as a player, the Trojans compiled a record of 90-16 and advanced to three NAIA National Tournaments, including a Final Four appearance in 1991.

“This (position) is a testament to John's hard work and who he's been,” Patterson said. “He is a guy about excellence and about doing his very best. He has an insatiable desire to learn, so he has surrounded himself with people who he can learn from. We are very proud of John and look forward to following his team at Illinois.”

Born in Muncie and a native of Danville, Ind., John and his wife, Allison, have two sons, Conner and Camden.

Groce is among more than 30 of Patterson's former players that are actively coaching at the college or high school levels. Seven of those are head coaches in the college ranks, including Groce, Chris Holtmann (Gardner-Webb University), Steve Brooks (Indiana Wesleyan University women), Chad Tapp (Indiana University South Bend), Scott Polsgrove (Lees-McRae College), and Ty Platt (Huntington University).