When Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas looked at the accomplishments of women's basketball coach Matt Bollant, he did a double take. "I sit there and say, 'This can't be true,' '' Thomas said. Here are the remarkable numbers behind Bollant, the former Wisconsin-Green Bay coach who took over the Illini program Wednesday.
CHAMPAIGN -- When Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas looked at the accomplishments of women's basketball coach Matt Bollant, he did a double take.
"I sit there and say, 'This can't be true,' '' Thomas said.
Here are the remarkable numbers behind Bollant, the former Wisconsin-Green Bay coach who took over the Illini program Wednesday.
At Green Bay, he was 148-19 in five seasons, winning the Horizon League all five seasons while compiling an 85-5 mark in the league play and playing in the NCAA tournament in each of the past four seasons. Green Bay reached the Sweet 16 in 2011 and also won NCAA games in two other appearances. In the process, he was the Horizon's coach of the year four times.
Over the past two seasons, Green Bay posted a 65-4 record.
Despite the handicap of recruiting players to the mid-major up north, he did well against big sister on the court. In 2010-11, Bollant's teams were 4-0 against the Big Ten. This year, he was 2-0 against the Big Ten, including an 82-62 win over Illinois in Puerto Rico.
While Illini fans are still hoping for a home-run hire in men's basketball, it looked like Thomas hit one out of the park on the women's side. He called it a "landmark'' for the program but wouldn't answer questions about the men's search.
"This is a great opportunity,'' said Bollant. "I had some other opportunities as well. This is the place I wanted to be because of the potential I see in this program.''
Bollant could also have landed at Indiana and Boston College, but he took over a program that hasn't played in the NCAA tournament since 2003. He has that early scouting report on the Illini from game in November.
"They weren't a very good passing team,'' Bollant said. "They really struggled with that. There were times when (star forward Karisma) Penn was open inside, and they couldn't get the ball to her because they didn't pass it.
"It doesn't matter what offense you run. It's only as good as your ability to pass and shoot. We have to become more skilled.''
Bollant agreed to a contract for $330,000 per season for six years with bonuses, such as winning NCAA tournament games and advancing to the Sweet 16.
"I knew going into it that Matt was the one we'd have real competition for,'' Thomas said.
Thomas also interviewed Kevin Gamble. The former star at Springfield Lanphier and Iowa played in the NBA who coached men's basketball at Illinois-Springfield before leaving to work at Providence.
The Illini were 69-93 under former coach Jolette Law. The Illini only once finished better than ninth in the Big Ten, a tie for eighth in 2009-10.
"Next year, we're not going to win a national championship,'' Bollant said. "Our goal is to get better and take it from there. I asked Mike what his expectations are. He said, 'I want to see the needle move, see the culture and things building and headed in that direction.'
"There are variables that go into how fast we can make that happen. Once we make the NCAAs, we can dream about the Sweet 16, then we can keep taking steps. It doesn't have to be slow steps.''
Bollant said he wouldn't have taken the job if "it was a four-, five- or six-year process.''
John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnSupinie.
By the numbers with Matt Bollant
Year School Overall Conf. Place Postseason
2002-03 Bryan College 29-7 (.805) 18-4 (.818) 2nd NCCAA Tournament
2003-04 Bryan College 28-5 (.848) 20-2 (.909) 2nd NAIA Tournament
2004-05 Bryan College 26-8 (.765) 19-3 (.864) 2nd NCCAA Tournament / AAC Tourney Champs
2005-06 Bryan College 26-8 (.765) 17-3 (.850) 1st NAIA Sweet 16
2006-07 Bryan College 25-8 (.758) 16-2 (.889) 1st NAIA Tournament
2007-08 Green Bay 26-6 (.813) 17-1 (.944) 1st WNIT First Round
2008-09 Green Bay 29-4 (.879) 18-0 (1.000) 1st NCAA First Round
2009-10 Green Bay 28-5 (.848) 15-3 (.833) 1st NCAA Second Round
2010-11 Green Bay 34-2 (.944) 18-0 (1.000) 1st NCAA Sweet 16
2011-12 Green Bay 31-2 (.939) 17-1 (.944) 1st NCAA Second Round
Bryan Totals 5 years 134-36 (.788) 90-14 (.865)
Green Bay Totals 5 years 148-19 (.886) 85-5 (.944)
TOTAL RECORD 10 years 282-55 (.837) 135-19 (.877)
* Appalachian Athletic Conference at Bryan, Horizon League at Green Bay