Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Brad Underwood shook up his coaching staff last week by hiring Gonzaga director of operations Stephen Gentry as an assistant coach and re-assigning current assistant coach Jamall Walker to a new position, special assistant to the head coach/defensive coordinator. Here’s the report from Jon Rothstein.
Illinois' Brad Underwood has hired Stephen Gentry as an assistant coach, per release. Gentry was previously in an administrative role at Gonzaga. Jamall Walker moves to special assistant to the head coach/defensive coordinator.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) August 27, 2019
Gentry and Underwood are familiar with each other. Before Gentry’s run at Gonzaga, he was with Underwood as an assistant coach at Stephen F. Austin and director of player development at Oklahoma State. He initially came to Illinois with Underwood as an assistant to the head coach before going to Gonzaga in 2017. Here’s what Underwood has to say about the new hire.
“I’ve said it often that Stephen has a great basketball mind, and he was a crucial piece to what we were able to accomplish at Stephen F. Austin and Oklahoma State,” Underwood said in a release. “I am excited to have him return to our bench coming off two incredibly successful years at Gonzaga with Coach Few. Stephen is gifted with Xs and Os and analytics and excels with player development. Given his familiarity with our system and our program, he will provide a seamless transition for our players.”
The shakeup for current Illinois assistant coach Jamall Walker is seen as a positive development as well. Walker, who’s been with Illinois for nine seasons, is seeing this opportunity as a chance to gain new skills in the hope of finding himself in a head coaching position someday. Here is a quote from Walker.
“I appreciate Coach Underwood providing this new role as I seek to gain experience in our industry that goes far beyond what happens on the court,” Walker said. “I have invested so much in Fighting Illini Basketball over these last seven years and am motivated to continue pushing forward with this staff and help our program realize the success that everyone is working so hard to achieve.”
Illinois is a team to watch this season. The young group just finished a four-game overseas trip and will look to build on it entering the 2019-’20 season.