GIFFORD (WCIA) — Very rarely are three coaches as successful as Bill Self, Lon Kruger, and Brad Underwood all together at the same time, much less ones tied together by the same university.
“It’s reliving a little bit of Illini history,” says Underwood. “And we’re doing it for an unbelievable cause, Coaches vs. Cancer.”
Illinois’s Coaches vs. Cancer event returned to Gordyville USA for the first time since 2019, after it was canceled the last two years. Underwood dug into his contacts this time around, getting the former Illini coaches to appear as special guests.
Self returns to Champaign just nine days after winning the NCAA National Championship with Kanas, one of the first times he’s been back since he left in 2003.
“This is the first time I got to get out amongst the masses and it feels really good,” says Self. “It seems like to me, the infrastructure’s in place to be really good at everything.”
Kruger is enjoying retirement after spending his last coaching years at Oklahoma. Rubbing elbows with 1,200 of the biggest Illini fans brings both back to the old days.
“Just so many great memories of the time Barb and I spent here,” says Kruger. “It seems like a while ago and it has been a while, but certainly good to be back.”
Underwood, Self, and Kruger combine for four Big Ten regular season titles, two Tournament championships, and have over 200 wins between them in Orange and Blue.
Brad Underwood will add to that total next season, but how many wins may depend on the future of Kofi Cockburn. He has until April 24 to enter the NBA Draft. The center has explored the draft process twice before, meaning if he enters it again he cannot return to college. Cockburn has two years of eligibility if he does decide to stay at Illinois. Underwood says they are still having conversations.
“They’re still ongoing. You know he’s got until the 24th and we’ll see what that looks like for him,” says Underwood. “He’s got a lot of conversations going on with his people. Obviously he’s a first team All-American. He’s one of the dominant players in college basketball and he’s got a lot to evaluate.”