John Groce Welcomed to UA, Excited to Continue Excellence with Basketball Program
Akron, Ohio – New University of Akron head coach John Groce certainly has big shoes to fill following Keith Dambrot’s departure from the program, and today’s press conference at the Starbuck’s Lounge in the Student Union showed Groce is ready for the challenge.
After leading his Ohio University Bobcats to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament in 2012, Groce went on to take over as head coach at Illinois for the next 5 seasons. After making the NCAA Tournament his first year there, Groce’s squads dealt with all sorts of injuries to key players, causing him to miss the big dance the next 4 years. Groce was let go by Illinois earlier this year following a loss to Michigan in the B10 Tournament.
Groce’s resume remains solid overall, however, posting a career coaching record of 180-131 with two MAC Tournament Championships and that Sweet 16 run mentioned earlier. Groce has also coached under current Ohio State men’s basketball coach Thad Matta at Butler, Xavier, and Ohio State. Groce will look to bring that experience from higher level play with him in his return to the MAC.
Groce seemed confident in his ability to continue the tradition of excellence and commitment to winning that comes with Akron Zips basketball. Sure, the whole “21 win” streak is nice to have, but at the end of the day it’s all about getting that MAC Championship and getting to the NCAA Tournament. Now, that’s not a knock on Dambrot whatsoever. Making it to 9 title games and winning 3 of them is pretty darn good. However, KD is gone now and the focus on winning must continue. Groce plans to “attack” this year offensively and really push the pace. His defense will remain your standard man-to-man package with some zone looks “sprinkled” in to quote Groce. The Zips have played at a slower pace the past few years with big man Isaiah Johnson being the focus of the offense, so it will be interesting to see if Akron can get out in transition more and run. This would help them take on those P5 (power 5) schools in the non-conference schedule. Speaking of non-conference scheduling, Groce plans to challenge the players a bit while also being very meticulous about who he schedules. Groce says he does not want the team in a big-time matchup coming straight off a mid-term or finals week or something of that nature.
Coach acknowledged the difficulties and transition that will come with recruiting players to come to Akron now. Groce says it’s “a challenging transition, but we’ll hit the ground running” in regards to getting those big-name recruits to continue to see Akron as a great future home.
Time will tell if John Groce can keep this program headed in the right direction. The Ohio-Akron rivalry is nothing to scoff at in the MAC, and Groce acknowledged this at the presser. He understands there’s maybe a few fans that still have some light distaste for him from his coaching days in Athens, but he seems confident he will be able to win everyone over and really get everyone on board for what he hopes to be a great stretch of Akron Zips basketball.
Check out the sound from today’s press conference out below!