Shauna Green’s Illinois flourishes with 6-1 start

By Conor Blount, Staff Writer

Nancy Fahey decided to retire last March after five years as head coach of Illinois women’s basketball. Despite having an unbelievable track record at her previous head coaching job, Illinois had a combined record of 42-99 under Fahey, finishing last place in the Big Ten three times and second to last two times. Less than three weeks after Fahey announced her retirement, Shauna Green was selected to be the 10th head coach in Illinois history.

Green also had an impeccable track record at her previous stops, making the NCAA tournament in four of her six years as the head coach of Dayton and qualifying for the WNIT in the other two. Illinois has not made the WNIT since the 2012–13 season and has not made the NCAA tournament since the 2002–03 season.

With Green’s lowest seasons being as decorated as Illinois’ best season in almost a decade, it was easy to view her hiring as a victory right away. However, at the time, it was easy to point to their last coach, who experienced great success at their last job but was unable to produce the same results at Illinois.

Green quickly started revamping Illinois’ program and brought in three new assistant coaches, four transfer athletes and four freshmen. With just five players from the 2021–22 season returning, the Illini were an entirely different team going into the 2022–23 season.

Part of Green’s overhaul of the team included watching no film of the 2021–22 team, believing that film of the past was irrelevant due to how different of a system she was trying to implement in the present.

“Some people may think that’s crazy, to not watch (film),” Green said. “But in my mind like, what would that have done to see the past when it’s just completely different systems of what we do. I think the nice thing too is that I had some awareness of the players — Kendall Bostic I recruited so I knew what she was like in high school. Jada Peebles we recruited a little bit at Dayton. The only thing I wanted to see was with my own eyes.”

Seven games into the season, it appears that Green’s Illinois is already on the right track. Starting off their season with a five-game home stand, the Illini earned convincing victories in each of those games, while winning by an average of 39.2 points.

Illinois then went on the road for the Daytona Beach Invitational to play back-to-back neutral site games against two teams who qualified for the NCAA tournament last season. The Illini claimed a 27-point victory over Charlotte on the first day of competition, before falling 83-80 to Delaware the next day.

The last time Illinois was 6-1 was the 2014–15 season, where the Illini finished 15-16 overall despite the hot start. However, this year Illinois has won in much more convincing fashion, with three of their six wins in 2014–15 being single-digit victories. With their next two matchups being on the road against opponents with one combined loss, it will soon become more apparent whether or not the Illini’s historic opening to the season is representative of how the rest of the season will pan out.

Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Green’s mentality about the start to the season is nothing if not encouraging for Illinois fans, as she maintains that her team will not be satisfied until the season is over.

“Every game we’re just trying to go 1-0,” Green said. “That’s our mindset. I want to win basketball games, so that’s all I care about. I also know the competition is getting harder and harder … but I’ll never take for granted winning a game. I can tell you that much.”

 

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