When the Fighting Illini take on Western Illinois University, they will see a familiar face on the Leathernecks' bench. Former Illinois administrative assistant Jeff Guin is a first-year assistant to WIU head coach Derek Thomas. Jeff is one of the hardest workers in all of college sports and should see good things come his way throughout his career. Illini-Nation had the opportunity to talk to Guin about his thoughts on returning to Champaign and what the Illini can expect in their season opener.
Chris Patton: How did you end up at Illinois and what were some of your duties while you were here?
Jeff Guin: I played ball at a junior college in Florida and when I graduated from there I went to the University of Florida and got on as a student manager under Coach Kruger. When he left to come to Illinois, I still had one year of graduate school left, so I stayed as a manager with Coach Donovan. When I finished grad school, I was lucky in that Coach Kruger had an opening on his staff and he hired me as an administrative assistant. Then, I got pretty lucky again after Coach Kruger left for Atlanta that Coach Self kept Coach Judson and me on the staff.
My main duties at Illinois were handling the video scouting and summer camps. I would take care of the film tapes and video exchange. My day-to-day duties included sending out recruiting mailers and any administrative office work that needed to be done, so the coaches could focus on coaching and recruiting.
CP: What were some of your best memories with the Illini?
JG: First, I would definitely say when we beat Kansas to go to the Elite Eight in 2000-2001. Then, I would say when we beat Michigan State that same year in the "Orange-Out" game. Last year going into Wisconsin to play for the conference championship was special. We didn't know what to expect going into that year with such a young team, but those guys really exceeded expectations. I'm no Badger fan, but that was such an incredible atmospehere. Also, winning the Big Ten Tournament last year meant a lot. We had won the conference a couple of times, but that was the one thing we hadn't been able to do and we accomplished that goal.
CP: What are your thoughts on coming back to Champaign-Urbana?
JG: I'm really excited. Betsy (Jeff's wife) and I have fond memories of the school. Plus, to coach in the atmosphere of the Assembly Hall is great. But, it's never fun to compete against old friends.
CP: Are there any certain players or staff that you are especially excited to see?
JG: Well, any time anybody comes back here, the first person they want to see is Rod Cardinal. He's been here so long, he's the guy that has been involved in this program throughout all the changes. It will be great to see Wayne McLain again and all of the players and people in the administration.
CP: I've noticed you guys have a tough non-conference schedule. Talk about your first two games so far and the road ahead in non-conference and in the Mid-Con.
JG: We opened up in the Guardians Classic and had to play Southwest Missouri State on their home floor and we were really proud of the guys. They played extremely hard, but we lost by 11 and they are one of the tougher teams in the Missouri Valley. The second game against Tennessee-Martin, we came out with no energy and we were really disappointed by that.
We play Illinois today, then we head out to Las Vegas to play UNLV on Wednesday, then go to Wisconsin Green Bay, come home to play Drake and head up to play Minnesota. We're going all over the place.
I hadn't really ever followed the Mid-Continent Conference before, but it's going to be tough. We have to break down the barriers, because this team has been down the past few years. We need to teach these kids how to do things right and prepare to play and prepare to win.
CP: Who are some of the key players for the Leathernecks?
JG: One returning player who should make an impact is senior guard J.D. Summers out of Quincy. Also, junior Bobby Carter will see a lot of time. New players include point guard T.J. Gray, who played in the Champaign area for a while and transferred to Chicago Julian for his senior season. We also had a JUCO transfer from Los Angeles, Doyle Cole, who's one of our big men.
CP: Finally, what type of play can Illinois expect from Western on Saturday?
JG: We've got a small group right now. Our big guys are kind of nicked up. We'll play what we like to call "small ball", which is push the ball up the floor and if somebody scores on us, look to get it right back up the court. We play a real up-tempo running game.
CP: Jeff, thanks for your time and I look forward to seeing you at the Hall on Saturday. Good luck this season.
JG: No problem.