Illinois Announces Basketball Staff Changes

Illinois men’s basketball head coach Brad Underwood announced Tuesday the following staff reorganization.

Stephen Gentry has been hired as assistant coach, reuniting with Underwood after spending the last two years at Gonzaga as director of operations for coach Mark Few. The Bulldogs had a stellar 65-9 record over his two seasons, winning back-to-back West Coast Conference titles and twice advancing to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Gonzaga went 32-5 in 2018, winning both the West Coast regular season and tournament championship, and made an NCAA Sweet 16 appearance. The 2019 Bulldogs, meanwhile, were 33-4 overall and a perfect 16-0 en route to the WCC regular season title. Gonzaga won the Maui Jim Maui Invitational, held the No. 1 ranking in the AP poll for a total of five weeks, and earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, advancing to the Elite Eight.

Gentry was alongside Underwood for four-plus seasons prior to his tenure at Gonzaga. He was at Stephen F. Austin for three years, Oklahoma State for one, and was part of Underwood’s original staff at Illinois, as assistant to the head coach, during the spring of 2017 before departing for Spokane.

“I’ve said it often that Stephen has a great basketball mind, and he was a crucial piece to what we were able to accomplish at Stephen F. Austin and Oklahoma State,” Underwood said. “I am excited to have him return to our bench coming off two incredibly successful years at Gonzaga with Coach Few. Stephen is gifted with Xs and Os and analytics and excels with player development. Given his familiarity with our system and our program, he will provide a seamless transition for our players.”

Gentry spent the 2017 season as director of player development at Oklahoma State, where the Cowboys won 20 games and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. Prior to OSU, Gentry was an assistant coach at Stephen F. Austin. The Lumberjacks went a combined 89-14 during his three seasons, winning three straight Southland Conference regular season and tournament titles to qualify for the NCAA Tournament all three years, twice advancing to the Round of 32. SFA went 32-3 in 2014, 29-5 in 2015, and 28-6 in 2016 for the winningest three-year run in Southland history.

Prior to SFA, Gentry spent six seasons at Texas A&M, including his final two as director of basketball operations under then-coach Billy Kennedy. That followed four years as video coordinator for former Texas A&M (now Maryland) coach Mark Turgeon. The Aggies won 129 games during his six season in College Station, participating in four NCAA Tournaments. Gentry came to A&M after one year as a video intern for the NBA’s Miami Heat under Pat Riley.

Gentry played four seasons of college basketball at Gonzaga, lettering three years. During his career the Zags went 107-20, won four consecutive WCC titles and participated in four NCAA Tournaments, advancing to the second round three times and the Sweet 16 in 2006.

Gentry fills the assistant coach position of Jamall Walker, who will transition into the role of assistant to the head coach/defensive coordinator. Illinois is creating the position to assist Walker, an aspiring head coach, with new responsibilities that will help best prepare him to one day lead his own program.

Walker will work closely with Underwood in handling all the daily coaching and administrative facets of leading the Fighting Illini, with special emphasis on defensive game-planning, preparations and analysis.

“I appreciate Coach Underwood providing this new role as I seek to gain experience in our industry that goes far beyond what happens on the court,” Walker said. “I have invested so much in Fighting Illini Basketball over these last seven years and am motivated to continue pushing forward with this staff and help our program realize the success that everyone is working so hard to achieve.”

“Jamall is a talented young coach who, without question, has a future as a college head coach,” Underwood said. “I saw that first-hand with the outstanding job he did leading the Illini during the 2017 NIT. He will work alongside me when it comes to the many responsibilities, opportunities, and issues that come across a head coach’s desk every single day. This partnership will allow him to gain more experience in running a program, with the ultimate goal that the professional development opportunity allows him to realize his dream of becoming a division one head­­ coach.”

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