Illinois head coach John Groce spent much of his early coaching career ascending through the collegiate ranks with current Ohio State head coach Thad Matta. As such, viewers who tuned in to Saturday’s intra-conference clash between the Fighting Illini and the Buckeyes were treated to a brief pictorial history of Groce that could have doubled as a testimonial in a Hans Weimann commercial.
After stints at Taylor University and North Carolina State, Groce joined his good friend Matta for just one brief year at Butler, during the 2000-01 season. Groce still has nice coverage, albeit nothing compared to the helmet of hair on the right.
A couple of years later, Groce served as an assistant to Matta at Xaiver. At this point in 2003, his boyish appearance still makes him look more like an acolyte than a basketball coach.
Then in 2005, Groce made the jump to Ohio State. Finally at a big-time program, the enemy’s advancement really starts becoming noticeable. Judging in this picture, it takes the strange form of a reverse Mohawk down the center of his head. Kind of like Manny Fraker from Death Wish 3 – an obscure reference to be sure, but I’m standing by it. If for no other reason than they both do a lot of winning.
Later in his tenure at Ohio State, the white flag is waived and we see the first appearance of the close-shaven look, otherwise known as the Michael Stipe. However, rather than let this drag him into a downward spiral, an undeterred Groce landed his first head-coaching gig at Ohio University, and after four successful seasons, his own job in the notorious B1G at Illinois.
So it seems that as the hair follicles fell away, the career conversely ascended. With Groce’s Illini off to an unexpected 14-2 start and a No. 12 national ranking, another amazing thing has happened. Twenty year-olds everywhere across the Land of Lincoln can’t wait to look like a middle-aged bald man.
All in due time. While Groce himself can’t get any balder now, hopefully that doesn’t mean an end to his success. Anyway, it’s a lot better than the alternative.