Little by little, John Groce is beginning to get a handle on everything associated with Illinois basketball. Other than needing to sell his home in Athens, Ohio, he is starting to adjust to the complexities of the job, especially now that his family has joined him.
"The family got here officially after Memorial Day weekend, so that's been good. My wife has enjoyed the community and has gotten out to meet people. Our two boys have started to participate in all kinds of things in the community.
"My six-year-old has been in a baseball camp and Vacation Bible School, so he's acclimated. We had a birthday party for my three-year-old out at Jupiters, and we had a blast. So we're transitioning well."
Groce says his program is beginning to take shape as well.
"Obviously, I've been traveling a portion of it so far. I've been here some, and our staff has been working very diligently long, productive hours, which has been good. We're trying to get our culture in place here and how we are going to do things on and off the court.
"So it's been good. You feel like you're on warp speed every day when you wake up, but that's okay. That's part of the job during the transition."
Isn't "warp speed" his normal operating mode anyway?
"Yeah, it is. Fortunately for me, I went through a building process when we were at Ohio for four years, from where we started to where we finished up before coming to Illinois. We've got a blueprint in place for what we're going to need. Now it's a matter of executing it."
Every step in his career has prepared him and pushed him toward this destiny.
"I've been blessed to be in great places and work for great coaches. And then obviously the experience of being a head coach prior to coming here. Where it was in 2008-09 and where it was when we left after the 2011-12 season makes you smile. I was really happy for the Athens community and Ohio University.
"I was grateful for that opportunity. We'll look back on those years fondly. It was a great experience for what we have to do here at Illinois."
Few understand all the complexities involved with coaching a high major college basketball team. It would be extremely difficult for anyone without previous head coaching experience to thrive in that setting. Groce agrees coaching Ohio was valuable preparation for his present job.
"Yes, it's helpful for sure. I think one of the things that I'm talking about is patience. I'm an aggressive, attacking guy every day when I wake up. But it's taught me to be aggressively patient. Understand that some things don't happen overnight.
"You continue chipping away and grinding it out, finding ways to help Illinois basketball get better on a daily basis. You do that every day, where you get caught up in the journey rather than the destination or the results, I think that's the whole key.
"A lot of times that destination, or the results that you want and everybody else wants, comes to fruition. I think sometimes when you get caught up in the destination you want, you don't enjoy and embrace the journey in the process that you go through every day to get there. In many ways, I think that kind of decreases the chances of where you want to go.
"So we try to get caught up in the process and have a great attitude and effort every day about what we're doing as a staff, and we expect the same from our players. That's the way that we know, and that's what we're going to be about."
In part two, Groce talks about hiring assistants and having to redo the process for two positions shortly after they were hired.