The basketball community in Chicago so badly wanted to see Brad Underwood hire a "Chicago guy" as the final assistant on his staff, and that wish was granted on Wednesday with the report that Ron "Chin" Coleman will accept the position.
Coleman was an assistant at UIC, and he has also worked on staffs at Bradley and Colorado State. Prior to that, he was the head coach for the Mac Irvin Fire AAU program in Chicago from 2005-11.
IlliniInquirer.com spoke with Mac Irvin Fire head coach and program director Mike Irvin for his reaction to the hire.
"I think he is one of the best assistants out here that they could have offered the job to. He definitely knows the landscape of Chicago. He definitely knows the backroads to get to everyone in Chicago. I think that will be a strong Chicago presence," Irvin said.
Many Illini fans will wonder if this hire helps with the Fire's prized prospect: 2018 five-star point guard Ayo Dosunmu.
"He'll have a good chance," Irvin said. "He'll have a good chance with everybody in Chicago. Not just Ayo."
"He has a strong presence here. He played in the Chicago Public League. He definitely knows everybody around here, including Ayo. He knows he'll have to work to get him, but he'll have a good chance."
Coleman was the first coach to offer Dosunmu a scholarship last spring.
"I'm happy for Coach Chin," Dosunmu told IlliniInquirer.com. "He's a good dude. I know him well."
Dosunmu's father, Q, said that he has known Coleman for more than 20 years.
"Chin is an excellent teacher and ambassador of the game. Hard worker and keeps everything real," he said.
Having 'talent-getters' on the assistant staff was a huge focus for Underwood at the outset, and it appears he has been successful in doing so with Coleman added to Orlando Antigua and Jamall Walker.
Irvin said that Coleman has proven that he can get players, whether it be Josh Cunningham at Bradley or a handful of nice pieces in UIC's rebuild. And he added that it was necessary for Illinois to get someone from Chicago to bring a resurgence to Champaign.
"It was definitely necessary. When you're talking about U of I and you're talking about trying to get the pipeline to Chicago and get it back to the Jimmy Collins days, you need someone from Chicago on that staff," Irvin said. "Coach Underwood putting Coleman on his staff shows that he's trying to make Chicago a priority. That's great to see. Chicago people want to see it."
"I've had conversations with Coach Underwood. I thought it was an excellent hire. I think he can bring it back to the days of where Coach Self had it or even the Flyin' Illini days."
What was the biggest difference between the time of getting top talent from Chicago and recent swing-and-misses for the home-state program?
"The biggest difference is that the head coach has to get out there and recruit and know what he wants. Underwood has proved that in showing that he wants guys that can run and put points on the board. He's shown that with his offense," Irvin said. "And then he brings in Chin, who has been with our program since we got started. He understands the caliber of players, what you need to win and how to get it done."