MINNEAPOLIS (WCIA) — The old saying “what goes around comes around” couldn’t be more true for Illinois Head Coach Chris Tamas. Three years after helping lead Nebraska to a national title as an assistant coach under John Cook– he’s now facing his former boss in the Final Four.
The mood was light between John Cook and Chris Tamas on Wednesday. A joke highlighted the quick exchange but when the lights come on tomorrow, it’s all business as the former assistant coach tries to take down his old boss.
“I learned a lot from John,” says Tamas. “I try to learn wherever I go and I’ve been fortunate enough to be around some really good coaches but John’s really good at how he runs the program, how he approaches everyday. There’s no stone unturned with John, I do know that.”
Tamas spent two years in Lincoln under Cook, learning all about what it takes to be a head coach in the Big Ten and run a program. Back-to-back Final 4 appearances gave Tamas the resume boost he needed to land the gig.
“Chris did a great job for us and was in the Big Ten for a couple of years and I wanted to keep him for another or two,” says Cook. “But I’ve been in this long enough to know that a job like this doesn’t come open all the time and that if he had a shot to get it, he had to go and obviously it was a good hire by your AD.”
“I’m really gracious in all of his time with me and what I’ve learned underneath him but now it’s time to beat him, you can tell him that.”
Tamas is just 1-2 against Cook — they won in Lincoln earlier this season — the first time Illinois has won at Nebraska since 2014. If the Illini could beat the huskers tomorrow — it would be another chapter in a historic start to Tamas’ tenure — John Cook has won four national titles in his 18 years — this is his 9th Final Four appearance.