Illinois has fired head coach John Groce, the school announced in a statement on Saturday.
The Illini went 18–14 this season, bowing out against Michigan in the Big Ten tournament. Groce was 95–75 in five seasons, but 39–53 in conference play. The Illini made the NCAA tournament just once under his watch, in his first season as head coach.
"I want to thank John Groce and his staff for their tireless efforts over these past five years," 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," Whitman continued. “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.”
Associate head coach Jamall Walker was named interim head coach. Groce is contractually due $1.7 million over the next two seasons.
Groce is 180–131 in nine seasons as a head coach. He previously held the position at Ohio.
The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Illinois made an overture to former NBA head coach Monty Williams, who said no with eyes toward an NBA return next season.