Grentz brings all new attitude

By Derek Barichello

By Derek Barichello

Senior writer

It’s back to the old Theresa Grentz for the women’s basketball team.

After losing two heartbreakers to No. 17 Michigan State and No. 8 Purdue, the Illini looked close to getting a quality win and competing for the conference title, but two lopsided losses to Indiana and No. 7 Ohio State have sent the team spiraling downward, causing Grentz to change her philosophy.

She is going back to the East Coast attitude; more yelling, more intensity and more work for the players. The same attitude she brought to Illinois when she was first hired.

“This is a great opportunity for them,” Grentz said. “I’m going to take them kicking, screaming or whatever and just take them. I’m going to put my arms around them one way or the other, whether it’s from the front or behind them because I think they can do this, and that they are going to.”

Time is running out for the Illini team that showed promise in its upset victory over No. 13 Oklahoma on Dec. 18 and in close losses to Michigan State and Purdue. If a breakthrough is going to come, it has to come quickly.

The Illini, who are 4-5 in conference play and 12-8 overall, host No. 12 Minnesota at 7 p.m. tonight and Michigan State on Sunday. After this week’s homestand, only five games and the Big Ten Tournament remain.

“They have the talent,” Grentz said. “They need the direction on where it’s going and that’s my job to give them that direction. There’s a lot of basketball to play and I want them to understand that.”

Sophomore forward Danyel Crutcher said the message was clear to the team.

“She told us we needed to play harder; we needed that,” Crutcher said. “We got a little spoiled. We jumped on her back, she’s intense, so it’s making us more intense and more focused to get the job done.”

With the new attitude around practice, Grentz will find out just who wants to win.

“Usually there are three groups that arise,” Grentz said. “The one that says, ‘This is great, this is what I want to hear,’ another group that says ‘Uh oh, something’s up,’ these are the kids that have been doing only what they’ve needed to do . and the third group that says ‘What are we talking about here?'”

“I want them to figure out which group they are in and put it out there and hold them accountable.”

For the Illini to take it to the next level, it is up to the players to take that leadership onto the floor. The new attitude in practice can only do so much, it will likely take a leader to emerge and translate Grentz’s message to the players.

“I believe that I have one somewhere,” Grentz said. “I don’t know which one it is, but I’m going to push them to find out. She doesn’t even know it, but she’ll come and things will be comfortable.”

The Illini have shown they can compete with any team in the country, coming just a basket short of upsetting Purdue. The next step is converting one of those near-misses into a win, something Grentz feels if they can get a taste of, they will not forget.

“(My staff) is right. They say, ‘They don’t know what you’re talking about,’ I think they are right,” Grentz said. “They don’t know what I’m talking about. They don’t have a feel for it.”

Despite the hard attitude, Grentz is confident the team can turn it around.

“This is a great group of kids, I know we can do this,” Grentz said. “I believe.”