MERNAGH: ILLINOIS STATE COACH LEAVES JOB UNDONE, STAFF HANGING
By Ray Mernagh
I remember my exact thoughts when Illinois State cut ties with their old coach and hired Tim Jankovich a few years back.
That guy’s inheriting a helluva team and is going to win big and get a huge job off of Porter Moser and his staff’s hard work.
It didn’t exactly work out that way.
Osiris Eldridge, a splendid guard left over in the coaching change from Moser to Jankovich (who sported a sweet haircut) never got to taste the NCAA tournament. Jankovich got to three conference title games but came up short each time and his non-conference schedule never gave his talented teams a chance for an at-large berth throughout his tenure in Bloomington-Normal. Of course I’m talking in the past tense here because yesterday it was announced that “Coach Jank” is leaving the Redbirds to become an assistant for Larry Brown at SMU. I guess it’s been implied/agreed/stated that he will be the next head coach once Brown decides to leave next week….okay, I’m joking (sort of).
And this decision by Jankovich, to me, is mind boggling from a strictly moral standpoint. I understand he got a raise. I understand SMU is moving into the Big East even though I’m not really sure, nor is anyone else, what the Big East exactly is or will be going forward.
Here’s what’s clear to me. One– Jankovich had a really talented team returning. Two– he has one of the better jobs in the Valley, a league where teams can get an at-large if they schedule even 2-3 good games out of the league. And three, most importantly, Jankovich has a roster and staff full of folks that believed in him and are just now realizing that when crunch time came — that belief wasn’t returned. All three of Jank’s assistants have families and suddenly, in just about freaking May, they’re without any clue of what their future holds.
The one hope is that the past week or so hasn’t really been about Jank trying to decide if he should take the SMU offer but instead has been about the coach making sure his entire staff is taken care of. I doubt that’s the case though. There’s a report that Rob Judson is guaranteed to stay on the next staff no matter what but that report probably doesn’t make Anthony Beane, his wife Katrina or his two sons (one who recently committed to ISU) feel any better. It certainly doesn’t make Paris Parham, his wife Keisha or their two boys feel secure either. When a man accepts a head coaching job it comes with a lot of perks, but one of the biggest responsibilities it comes with is the knowledge that your every move can effect families that have put their faith in you.
Jankovich also leaves behind 5 freshmen, 3 sophomores and six juniors on his old roster. He’s pulled this move before, leaving a head job back in the day to go work as an assistant at Kansas. It makes me wonder if Jank ever understood the history of the Valley or his now former program’s role in that storied history? It also makes me wonder how confident Jankovich is in his abilities.
After all, he had a roster, and a point guard in Nic Moore, that just about every non-big-six-conference coach would kill for…and he quit on them.