Salary questions arise in quest for new men’s basketball coach

As the search to name the next Illinois men’s basketball coach appears headed toward its 21st day, there has been another turn in Illinois Athletic Director Mike Thomas’ reported pursuit of Ohio coach John Groce.

Ohio athletics spokesman Drew Wiseman said Wednesday that university administrators are interested in retaining Groce and are attempting to put together funds to retain him, but aren’t sure the sources of those funds.

According to The Athens Messenger, discussions were in the works between Ohio Athletic Director Jim Schaus and President Roderick McDavis to increase Groce’s salary, possibly up to $500,000 annually.

Wiseman said the Bobcats head coach is earning $355,000 this season in base salary and bonuses. Ohio’s athletic department budget was reported at $22.8 million for 2010-11 — about $50 million less than Illinois’.

Chicago native and junior Bobcats point guard D.J. Cooper took to Twitter, supporting his head coach, while also suggesting a means to retain him.

“If coach goes to U of I just know my homie @djrich32 (D.J. Richardson) will be in heaven,” Cooper said in a tweet Wednesday.

“I say we all hit the casino tonight & raise some money for my man JG,” he said in another tweet later.

Money has not been a cause for concern in the search as Thomas has been reported to offer in excess of $2.5 million annually.

Reports surfaced Tuesday that Illinois and Groce came to an agreement and a press conference to introduce the new coach would happen that day but were quelled by the athletic department.

At Wednesday’s press conference for the hiring of women’s basketball coach Matt Bollant, Thomas ignored questions regarding the men’s vacancy.