When University of Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman hired Nancy Fahay (pronounced FAY) to be Illinois’ head coach for women’s basketball, he hired a legend. Fahay coached the Washington University women’s basketball team for thirty one years. She posted 737 career wins for the Division III program, winning five NCAA Championships with ten final four appearances. She is in the Washington University Sports Hall of Fame, the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame, and the Women’s Collegiate Hall of Fame. People have questioned whether Fahay can recruit for a Division I basketball program. I believe that she can. Fahay is a well known name in women’s college basketball, and well respected by her peers. I have no doubt that girl’s high school basketball coaches throughout the country are well aware of who she is. That is especially true in the Saint Louis area, where the coaches have been observing her teams over the years. And that is certainly true of the high school players around Saint Louis who have grown up watching Nancy Fahay teams play, now some of the best players from that area can have the chance to play for her. Fahay brought talented players to Washington University that she helped win, and she can do the same at Illinois.
Today, March 11, Illinois Men’s basketball coach, John Groce was fired. A replacement for Groce will likely be announced in the next two weeks. Josh Whitman, the Illinois athletic director, is not someone who wastes time making hiring decisions. He’ll look for a good coach that he likes and go out and get him. Most of the coaches on everybody’s lists are head coaches whose teams will be selected for this year’s NCAA Tournament tomorrow. And Whitman will be unable to speak with any of them until their tournament run ends. However, 52 of the 68 teams chosen on Selection Sunday will end their seasons by next Sunday, so most of the coaches will be able to talk to Whitman by then. Then again, Whitman may not go after a head coach. A well established assistant coach is a possibility. And I’m sure a coach with connections to Chicago area high schools would be preferable. I also think that the choice will be impressive, like Whitman’s choice of Lovie Smith as football coach was a year ago. In any case, I fully expect the new Illinois basketball coach to be hired in less than two weeks.