Smile Politely

Illini Athletics loses key staffer

Tuesday afternoon, social media chirped Illini assistant basketball coach Isaac Chew’s move to Marquette. At the Ubben & Corzine’s Illini basketball administrative offices, new staffer Brandon Miller and office manager Julie Pioletti discussed the power of rumor in the internet age. Head coach John Groce popped into view with a cheery, “How ya doin’?” before darting to his office.

Things were just as quiet across the commons at Bielfeldt. With Nothing To Report until someone at the top decides to release an Official Announcement, Illini basketball spokesman Derrick Burson left early to enjoy some late afternoon family time. Communications honcho Kent Brown was gone too, as was office manager Jen Funderburk. The wily Victor Cortez was in the house, but he won’t be for long.

One of only two outwardly weird people in the Sports Information office, Victor is the guy who designed all those flashy posters and desktop wallpapers, not to mention the new Assembly Hall basketball court.


Promoted just this year to a new position, Director of New Media & Creative Services, Victor recently accepted a similar position with the NCAA at its Indianapolis headquarters.

That’s good news for the local music scene, to which Victor has been a near-constant irritant since his days in Rectangle (here at 3:26 for example) and most recently as maracist (rumbist?) & rhythm suitcase for the Viper & his Famous Orchestra. Look out Old Northside Hipsters.

Cheers, Victor.

As for Isaac Chew, the second new hire to immediately bolt John Groce’s nascent staff, the fallout (damage assessment) will be determined by his replacement. From one perspective, it’s good to hire the hot commodities. If other programs are after your people, your people must be pretty good.

We remember what happened the last time Illini athletics hired a basketball coach whose chief asset was loyalty. Sure enough, he wouldn’t leave.

Formerly Thad Matta’s top assistant at Ohio State, Miller expressed zero surprise at immediate chat board speculation that he’d move “up.” But Miller stepped away from coaching, and into administrative duties, specifically to get away from the hectic travel schedule and all-night video marathons associated with the modern college assistant’s job. “The title on my door is Assistant to the Head Coach,” he offered with a smile.

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