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New Illini coach plans for success
Mike Thomas, director of Athletics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, introduced Matt Bollant as the new head coach of the Fighting Illini’s women’s basketball team March 28. Bollant had two successful stints at Bryan College in Tennessee and the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, where he led the team in winning 84 percent of its games.
Bollant, who has been honored with the Horizon League Coach of the Year award for the past four years, spoke with The Chronicle about how he expects more success at his new gig.
The Chronicle: Why did you accept this job instead of others?
Matt Bollant: Basically the potential. I think the current players here have some talent and I think the state of Illinois is loaded with talent. The location to recruit other states, as well, is really good. I see the potential in this job.
The Chronicle: What were some other jobs you passed on?
MB: It’s not really fair for me to comment. I had several other [Bowl Championship Series] schools that I looked
at that showed interest in me, but I don’t want to comment on that because some of them are still in [the] process [of hiring coaches].
The Chronicle: How will your previous success at the other schools translate to U of I?
MB: You know, basketball is basketball. We’re going to run the same system that we did at Green Bay. We’ll tear down the offensive system a little bit to fit these guys. We’re basically going to do the same things and run the same stuff.
The Chronicle: What was the system that you ran at Wisconsin?
MB: We ran a dribble motion offense, which fits these girls really well. We ran a secondary break, which we will run here, as well. Defensively, we really pressure the ball, get into you, pressure hard and deny.
The Chronicle: Why do you think those systems will work at the U of I?
MB: Because they are so athletic, and it fits them really well.
The Chronicle: What do you think the identity of your team will be?
MB: We are going to be a team that can put pressure on defense and turn you over. And then offensively, we will be a team that can get to the rim and rebound. Hopefully, we are going to be skilled.
The Chronicle: How do you go about recruiting players?
MB: First we are going to try and recruit players with high character and high integrity. Next Monday, we have two juniors on campus, and they’re two of the greatest kids in the world—high character, high integrity, really driven and want to be great players.
The Chronicle: Coming from a Mid-Major, how has the transition been to the Big Ten?
MB: The transition has been really good. It’s still coaching basketball. The players have been really receptive and open to learn and change, and that’s been really fun. And obviously there’s still a few more caravans where you’re going out to cities and things, so trying to keep on top of your schedule and there’s a few more demands on your time, but besides that it’s still the same.
The Chronicle: Do you plan on recruiting from the Chicagoland area?
MB: Yeah, absolutely. We’ve already had a 2012 kid on campus from the Chicago area. Yeah, we’re working hard to build relationships, and I have some great relationships with those people already.
The Chronicle: How do you develop relationships with high school players and coaches?
MB: Mainly just doing the right thing. The main thing we do is we treat our players right. So any of our players, when they talk to their high school or [Amateur Athletic Union] coaches, they tell them, “We love it here. We love our coaching staff, and they’re doing it the right way.” And then it takes time. We’re going to run a coaches clinic next fall. We’re going to run team camps here and just kind of one day at time build those relationships.