AKRON, OHIO – Thursday morning, the University of Akron named 45-year old John Groce as its new head men’s basketball coach. He becomes the 22nd head coach in school history, replacing Keith Dambrot, who recently left the program to be the head coach at Duquesne University.
“We concentrated our search on finding a Division I head coach with a proven track record of excellence, winning, and post season appearances.” UA Athletic Director Larry Williams said. “That combined with a focus on academics and discipline. Coach Groce has that combination.”
Groce comes to the Zips from . . .
“What a great day,” Groce said. “Our goal (with the Zips) is to build on the traditions that have been sustained the past few seasons.”
During his time in Athens, Groce led the ‘Cats to two Mid-American Conference tournament championships -- 2010 and 2012, defeating UA in both games. Over its two NCAA Tournament trips, Ohio won three games.
The Bobcats upset Georgetown in the first round of the 2010 NCAA tourney before losing in the second to Tennessee. Then in 2012, led by D.J. Cooper, Nick Kellogg, and Reggie Keely, the Bobcats went to the Sweet 16 with wins over Michigan and South Florida before falling to North Carolina.
His success helped Groce land the head coach position at Illinois, where he replaced Bruce Weber. Groce then returned to the tourney in 2013 and notched a first round win over Colorado before losing to Miami (FL) in the second round.
Last season, the Illini were 18-10. However, a setback to Rutgers in the last regular season game, followed by a loss to Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament, marked the end of the line for Groce’s time with the Illini. He did not coach the team in the National Invitational Tournament and was replaced by Brad Underwood, who left for Oklahoma State.
A native of Danville, Indiana, Groce was a highly decorated high school player who went on to Taylor University and led the Trojans to the NAIA Tournament, reaching the Final Four in 1994.
He began his coaching career at his alma mater as an assistant. Groce then joined Herb Sendek at North Carolina State from 1996-98. From there he went to Xavier and began his association with Thad Matta.
After spending 2001-04 with the Musketeers, he followed Matta to Ohio State, where he spent five seasons -- he last two as associate head coach.
Led by Greg Oden, Mike Conley, and Dajuan Cook, the 2007 Buckeyes made it to the Final Four, defeating Georgetown in the semi-final before losing to Florida in the National Championship Game.
After Dambrot in late March announced his intentions to leave Akron for Duquesne, the wheels were set in motion quickly to fill the vacancy. Wilson was on a vacation in Germany at the time. He kept in contact with Williams and when he returned to Akron, the two went to the Final Four in Phoenix to interview candidates.
Although neither would say how many men they interviewed for the position, they both were struck by the level on interest in coming to UA.
Groce becomes the second new head coach in the MAC basketball fraternity this off-season; the other is Miami’s new head man Jack Owens.
The 2017-18 version of the Zips could be a work in progress as 2017 MAC Player of the Year Isaiah Johnson and Kwan Cheatham have graduated. Also, freshman Tavian Dunn-Martin has mentioned he would be leaving.
Groce met with the current team on Wednesday and indicated he would meet again with them in the next few days. His first game-action with his new squad will begin in November -- most likely against Cleveland State in the third annual Northeast Ohio Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament at Rhodes Arena.