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Illinois Fighting Illini Assistant Coach Stephen Gentry has left for Gonzaga

The former Zags walk-on and Director of Basketball Operations is returning to his alma mater

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 19 Penn State at Illinois Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After joining the Illinois Fighting Illini coaching staff in August 2019, assistant coach and offensive coordinator Stephen Gentry is leaving for the Gonzaga Bulldogs.

Gentry was hired back in August 2019 after two seasons at Gonzaga as the Director of Basketball Operations. As an assistant coach, he was the primary staff member in charge of the offense. Illinois went from No. 83 in adjusted offense per KenPom the season prior to his arrival to No. 38 after his first season and No. 8 this past season. To be fair, he inherited a program that had a then rising sophomore Ayo Dosunmu and a newly arriving Kofi Cockburn, which is a great position to be in as a coach. However, he clearly did a great job managing the offensive schemes with the two stars, which is not automatic.

Gentry returns home to Gonzaga for a second time as a staff member and third time, overall. He played four seasons at Gonzaga for head coach Mark Few in college, starting off as a walk-on and lettering for three seasons, including a trip to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen in 2006. The Zags won four straight West Coast Conference titles during his time with them.

However, Gentry had to fight and claw his way onto the roster. He initially failed to make the team as a walk-on, but proceeded to show up and sit in the bleachers at every practice. Only after the scout team started playing four-on-four with him did Gentry eventually get approached by then-assistant coach Leon Rice and added as a walk-on.

Gentry started out his career in coaching first as a video intern with the Miami Heat, before moving on to spend six seasons at Texas A&M. His final two in College Station were spent as the Director of Basketball Operations under head coach Billy Kennedy. Previously he worked for four years as the video coordinator under former Aggie, and now Maryland Terrapins head coach Mark Turgeon.

Following his time at Texas A&M, Gentry was hired by then new Stephen F. Austin head coach Brad Underwood. Gentry spent an incredible three season run there that saw the Lumberjacks total 89 wins, which are tied for the most by any coaching staff in its first three campaigns. Gentry then spent one season with Oklahoma State as the Player Development Director before moving back to Gonzaga for the same role for two seasons.

Gentry leaves a big hole to fill on Underwood’s staff.