There is a fire that burns inside John Groce, a determination to succeed at the highest levels. In more than a decade working for some of the titans of the college basketball world, he earned a reputation that included traits such as passionate, driven, tireless and bright.
The work that Groce has put in over the last 18 years has given him an ample taste of that success. He has reached the postseason 16 times in his 18 years on the collegiate sidelines, helping guide teams to a Final Four, two Elite Eights, a National Invitation Tournament championship and numerous conference titles.
As he enters his fourth season as head coach at Ohio University, Groce has wasted no time instilling that same fire into every facet of the Bobcat program. In 2010, he became the fifth coach to lead Ohio to the NCAA Tournament in it's 104-year history. A stirring run through the Mid-American Conference Tournament featured an overtime win on the road in the first round, a toppling of regular-season champion Kent State in the quarterfinals, a victory over archrival Miami in the semifinals and capped with another overtime victory against the defending conference champs, Akron.
The historic season did not end in Cleveland as Ohio advanced the to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005 and third time in the last 20 years. The 13-seeded Bobcats faced 4-seeded Georgetown and knocked off the Hoyas, 97-83. It was Ohio's first win against a nationally-ranked program since 1998 and advanced them into the NCAA Second Round for the first time since 1983. The win was also the fifth all-time for the Green & White in the Big Dance.
Ohio led the league in scoring by averaging 74.7 points per game and had five players average 10.5 points or more for their 2009-10 campaigns. The 2,763 points scored last year were the most by any Bobcat team, breaking the previous mark of 2,668 set during the 1993-94 season. The Green & White also finished second in the league in three-point field goal percentage (.366), three-point field goal percentage defense (.312), rebounding offense (37.1), assists (14.16), turnover margin (+2.51) and three-point field goals made (7.51).
While Groce's attacking style of play undoubtedly leads to results on the court, it also benefits the Ohio players when it comes time to collect hardware. Last year, D.J. Cooper was named the 2009-10 MAC Freshman of the Year after an outstanding season. The guard was one of just two players in the nation to rank in the top 15 in both steals and assists which also helped him land a spot on the 2010 CollegeInsider.com Freshmen All-America Team. Armon Bassett was an honorable mention All-MAC performer after leading Ohio with 17.1 points per game and finishing fourth in the league in scoring. Bassett was named the MAC Tournament MVP after averaging 29 points per game and setting a MAC record with 116 points scored.
John Groce has overseen the development of five first-round NBA draft picks in the last four years.
Already known as one of the premier recruiters in the college game, Groce and his staff enjoyed an off-court success of a different kind during the 2008-09 season as their five-player 2009 recruiting class was regarded as the 10th-best in the country among mid-majors and one of the top-70 in the nation overall by Hoop Scoop Online. Two members of the class were named the best incoming players at their position in the MAC by Rivals.com, while all five were nominated for McDonald's High School All-America status during their final prep campaigns. For this upcoming season, Groce has brought in even more talent with the addition of four freshmen and two transfers.
Since his first day on the job, Groce, a former teacher, has also placed great importance on the academic success of the Ohio program. Groce's first three quarters on the job saw the Bobcats post team grade-point averages that ranked among the five-best in the 15 academic quarters since the beginning of the 2004-05 school year. Under his tutelage, 14 Ohio players have earned an individual GPA of 3.00 or better for a quarter a combined 22 times.
Prior to his arrival in Athens, Groce spent four seasons on staff at Ohio State, the final two as associate head coach. During his tenure, he helped the Buckeyes to 105 victories, including a school-record 35 wins in 2006-07, a pair of outright Big Ten regular-season titles, two NCAA Tournament appearances, a berth in the 2007 NCAA National Championship game and the 2008 NIT title.
Groce was also heavily involved in recruiting at Ohio State and played a vital role in bringing future first-round NBA draft-picks Greg Oden, Mike Conley, Jr., and Daequan Cook to Columbus, earning him the title of Rivals.com Recruiter of the Year in 2006. His 2007 class at OSU, which featured a five-star prospect and two four-star recruits, was also ranked sixth in the nation.
Groce's talent didn't go unnoticed at the national level during his time at Ohio State, as Jeff Goodman of FoxSports.com recognized him as one of the top-10 high-major assistant coaches in the country in May of 2008. The previous summer also saw Groce receive praise from the national basketball media, as Bob McClellan of Rivals.com anointed him the assistant coach from across the country most ready to lead his own program.
The Danville, Ind., native began his coaching career in 1993 as an assistant at his alma mater, Taylor University, in Upland, Ind. During that time, Taylor posted a 71-28 record and earned a pair of trips to the NAIA national tournament. He helped the Trojans to a 29-5 record and a No. 1 national ranking in 1994.
Groce broke into Division I basketball as a member of Herb Sendek's staff at NC State in 1996, ultimately serving as an assistant with the Wolfpack from 1996-00. NCSU earned postseason bids in each of his four years on the sidelines, including a trip to the 2000 NIT semifinals.
With his hiring at Ohio, Groce became the eighth former Sendek assistant to ascend to the Division I head coaching ranks.
In 2000-01, Groce moved on to Butler, where he joined Thad Matta's staff for the first of his eight years working with the current Ohio State head coach. With Groce on the bench, the Bulldogs captured both the Midwestern College Conference regular-season and tournament crowns, and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Groce accompanied Matta to Xavier in 2001, helping lead the Musketeers to a 78-23 overall record and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament in each of his three seasons on staff. The crown jewel of Groce's time in Cincinnati was a berth in the 2004 NCAA Elite Eight.
After starring for current Iowa head coach Todd Lickliter at Danville High School, Groce played basketball for three years at Taylor, helping the Trojans to a composite 86-18 record and three trips to the NAIA Tournament, including an NAIA Final Four bid in 1991. He earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Taylor in 1994.
Born on Sept. 7, 1971, in Muncie, Ind., Groce and his wife, Allison, have two sons,Conner and Camden.
THE GROCE FILE Hometown: Danville, Ind. Education: Taylor University (B.S., Mathematics, 1994) Collegiate Athletic Experience: Basketball (Taylor, 1991-93) Family: Allison (wife), Conner (son) Coaching Experience: Ohio University (Head coach, 2008-Present) Ohio State University (Associate head coach, 2006-08) Ohio State University (Assistant coach, 2004-06) Xavier University (Assistant coach, 2001-04) Butler University (Assistant coach, 2000-01) NC State University (Assistant coach, 1996-00) Taylor University (Assistant coach, 1993-96)
NBA DRAFT PICKS COACHED BY JOHN GROCE Greg Oden (First overall, Portland Trailblazers, 2007) Evan Turner (Second overall, Philadelphia 76ers, 2010) Mike Conley Jr. (Fourth overall, Memphis Grizzlies, 2007) David West (18th overall, New Orleans Hornets, 2003) Daequan Cook (21st overall, Miami Heat, 2007) Kosta Koufas (23rd overall, Utah Jazz, 2008) Lionel Chalmers (33rd overall, Los Angeles Clippers, 2004) David Young (41st overall, Seattle SuperSonics, 2004) Romain Sato (52nd overall, San Antonio Spurs, 2004)
MAC STATISTICAL CHAMPIONS UNDER JOHN GROCE Team 2011 - Scoring offense (74.4) 2011 - Assists per game (15.23) 2010 - Scoring offense (74.7) 2010 - Scoring margin (5.2) 2010 - Assist to turnover ratio (1.17) 2010 - Defensive Rebounds (25.08) 2009 - Three-point field goal percentage (36.3) 2009 - Assists per game (13.63)
Individual 2011 - D.J. Cooper, assists per game (7.51) 2011 - Tommy Freeman, three-point field goal percentage (.436) 2010 - D.J. Cooper, assists per game (6.25) 2010 - D.J. Cooper, steals per game (2.69) 2010 - D.J. Cooper, minutes played (38.00) 2010 - Tommy Freeman, three-point field goal percentage (.506) 2009 - Michael Allen, assists per game (4.31) 2009 - Michael Allen, assist-to-turnover ratio (2.26) 2009 - Tommy Freeman, three-point field goal percentage (42.5) 2009 - Jerome Tillman, defensive rebounds per game (5.44)