Former Illinois Assistant Coach Mark Coomes

Mark Coomes was an assistant basketball coach at the University of Illinois for nine years and coached some of the greatest Illini basketball players to ever put on the uniform. Read here for his thoughts on the weekend and the history of Big Ten and Illinois basketball.

Mark Coomes is in his 12th season as an assistant coach at UIC where Jimmy Collins, another former Illini coach remains the head person in charge. Today InsideIllini.com was able to catch up with Coomes to get his feelings on the Night of the Legends that took place in Champaign (IL.) last weekend.

"It was a wonderful, wonderful feeling to be back there again to see all those guys I coached and the ‘05 kids. The school and all those that helped did a tremendous job at putting this all together. It was first class, all the way," said Coomes.

Some of the stars that Coomes coached while at Illinois were Nick Anderson, Kendall Gill, Kenny Battle and Stephen Bardo. The 1989 team is still today one of current ESPN analyst Dick Vitale's favorite teams of all time. Former All-American Nick Anderson made the comment Saturday, "It was good to be back home. It's been too long." Coomes added, "I don't want to speak for Nick, but I'm sure seeing all his old buddies and the love and support the Illini fans continue to give him means a lot. He had a great career at Illinois and the NBA."

When asked to compare the 1989 vs. the 2005 teams Coomes didn't lean one way or the other but did have this bit of information to offer. "People may not know this Kedric, but in 1989 when we played Michigan both teams had 10 guys on their rosters that played in the NBA. If any team in the Big Ten wanted to finish in the upper-half of the conference back then you better have at least two guys that are NBA material on your roster. Look at a guy like Eddie Johnson who had to play against guys like Magic Johnson, Clark Kellogg and Ronnie Lester every night out, it's not like that so much anymore. Let's take a look at last year's first round NBA draft. The Big Ten had three kids selected; that's it - only three. That didn't happen years ago. Kids today don't feel a sense of loyalty like they used to. On our roster we had mostly Illinois kids back then; kids just didn't leave the state as much, they wanted to stay close to home. But also you don't see coaches stay at one school for 20 years like they used to either," Coomes said.

The event itself was a long time coming for Illinois fans. Some of the guys playing last Saturday were young kids watching some of the older guys play, but the one common theme was - "We're a family here and we have to come back and show love and support for those who gave it to us."


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