Smile Politely

Groce loses first staffer

Ramon, we hardly knew ye.

Ramon Williams was never officially announced as Illini men’s basketball Assistant to the Head Coach, the position Gary Nottingham filled for the last nine years. And he won’t be.

It’s the rite of spring, college basketball version. The coaching carousel giveth, and it taketh away. On Thursday, Virginia Tech announced Williams’s hiring as an assistant coach. His tenure in Champaign lasted oh, about a month. Although familiar with the area from his time as DePaul assistant under Jerry Wainwright, Williams is a pig in mud at Blacksburg. He grew up in Roanoke and graduated from VMI.

Williams was an assistant coach at Ohio for the last three seasons. He initially followed Illini coach John Groce from Athens, but not in the same capacity. So Chicago connections would be of little use in Champaign.

For parity’s sake, all NCAA Division I basketball programs are allowed a maximum of three assistant coaches. Other staffers may not perform instruction, or participate in off-campus recruiting. It’s probably hard for a former coach to resist the coaching impulse. In the Bruce Weber Administration, the NCAA penalized Illinois for this particular infraction (bylaw on three separate occasions.

Instead, the Assistant to the Head Coach analyzes practice and game video, and helps direct the coaching staff to player weaknesses, bad habits, etc. He does the same when scouting opponents. The AtHC also charts plays, and provides game-time advice on strategy (e.g. recommending  a few alternative sets for the crucial in-bounds play with 5 seconds left when your team is down by a point).

New Hokies head coach James Johnson completed his coaching staff with Kurt Kanaskie and Mark Byington. Kanaskie was head coach at Drake before spending the last decade assisting Ed DeChellis at Penn State and Navy. Byington assisted Bobby Cremins at College of Charleston.

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