Nearly a month later, though, Illinois is still down one assistant coach. It wasn’t a 2-for-1 swap with Antigua and Coleman heading to Lexington, Ky., and Frazier leaving Blacksburg, Va., to return to Champaign. Underwood still has one more assistant coach and one more staffer to hire with recruiting picking up this month and the team back on campus ahead of summer workouts set to start toward the end of next week.
Illini coaching search continues | Sports “We’re finalizing the other spots and getting close,” Underwood told The News-Gazette on Tuesday. “Those are going to be guys that just continue to build on our culture and fit our culture. I feel great. We’ve got our players here. We may or may not sign another guy. We’ll see. I feel terrific about where our program is at right now.”
“I try to be very thoughtful in what we do,” Underwood said. “There’s a lot of things that go into that. We did some things different this past year with COVID and coaches not being able to recruit. We made some changes in terms of assignments — offensively, defensively, special teams. We had guys specialize in those areas. I really like that. I’ve factored that in to what we’re doing.” “We’ve had nothing on the court yet with our guys,” Underwood said. “We have guys who have quarantined and guys who have to get physicals and do all that. Then we’ll give them time with (strength and conditioning coach Adam Fletcher). We’re allowed to have two non-coaching members now be on the court for the summer. We’ll have plenty of hands there. It will be a community of coaches doing a multitude of things here until we get it filled.”
Underwood said the entire Illinois staff has chipped in with recruiting returning to normal and visitors coming to Champaign this month. That they’ve been unofficial visits — no overnight stays and limited to campus — has meant being down one coach and one staffer hasn’t been a problem. The start of workouts not coming until some point next week has also meant no pressure to make a hire just to make a hire. Underwood said his process this offseason is “no different” than the first time he put together his coaching staff at Illinois. That first staff featured one holdover from the John Groce era in assistant coach Jamall Walker, which was a decision made within a week of Underwood taking over the program. Antigua was hired on April 6, 2017 — 20 days after Underwood was announced as the Illini’s next coach — and Coleman’s hire came six days later.
Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).
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