CHAMPAIGN – John Groce’s sideline demeanor at the end of the Michigan State game became a hot topic of discussion following Illinois’ fourth straight conference loss.
His coat throw and technical happened after the Spartans had pulled away for good and didn’t negatively impact the outcome.
But some wondered if Groce was too emotional, too caught up in his feud with the officials to control himself.
Groce tweeted remorseful thoughts twice on Wednesday.
“Get 1% Better Today - one of our program staples. I want our players and my own children to display emotion and not be too emotional.”
"It is a fine line. For them to learn I need to model that balance better than I did last week. Thank God for lessons! #learnandmove."
The second-year coach doesn’t often take to the Twitter – those were his first tweets in over two weeks.
“I do think there’s a fine line there between emotion in a positive way and being emotional,” Groce said later during a media teleconference. “I think the other part too is the way we want our guys to handle adversity and things, I have to exemplify that and be a good example. I don’t know the other day if that was the case, so I’ve got to be better there, learn from that, move on.”
Groce said his wife and father are the two people he trusts most to rein him in following such instances. They know him better than anybody and usually speak up when Groce needs a check. He met with the team earlier this week to discuss his behavior, another nod that he regretted the incident. He also acknowledged that he’s a representative of the university and the fan base, a role he doesn’t take lightly. While he plans to keep his emotions in balance moving forward, Groce says he’s still going to be himself while patrolling the sideline.
“What I don’t want to do though, I’m not that guy that just sits there and says nothing,” Groce, who also received a technical against Indiana, said. “That’s not me. That’s not who I am.
“I think at the end of the day, you know for me, I’m going to be who I am. For me, my entire life, passion, energy, emotion, is a positive thing. I think as long as it’s positive, it’s great.”
His players came to his defense. Senior Jon Ekey said he appreciated Groce taking responsibility for the technical.
“He told us straight up he was a little bit too much,” Ekey said.
Both Ekey and junior guard Tracy Abrams expressed support for Groce’s energetic antics during games.
“That’s good for us. I think we feed off it,” Abrams said. “It’s good for the guys to see that, just that he cares as much as we care.”
Added Ekey: “He’s a very animated guy. That’s always good to see that energy from the bench. It makes you want to play harder.”
For Groce, amid a frustrating Big Ten losing streak and on the eve of a trip to Ohio State, everything essentially still desolves into a teaching moment.
“We’re very real with one another,” he said. “We communicate in truth here. We don’t dodge things. We’re not a backdoor type of organization. We come through the front door. That’s what we do. I tell those guys all the time, you’ve got to man up, take responsibility and own things. You know, I’m no different. I can’t ask them to do that and then I don’t do that. That would be awfully hypocritical, so we’ll learn from it, get ready to attack this (next game) and move on.”