In his third season as head coach at the University of Illinois in 2014-15, Matt Bollant has begun to revive a dormant Illini program after being a part of the best season in program history at his other four collegiate coaching stops. He led the Orange and Blue to the postseason for the first time in three years in 2013 and Illinois finished with a winning Big Ten record for the first time in 10 seasons. He also has spearheaded the composition of back-to-back top-25 recruiting classes during his first two recruiting years in Champaign.
Despite taking a step back in wins and losses, the Illini program began to change its culture in the 2013-14 season. The values of hard work, fundamentals, attention to detail and team unity began to pay off as Illinois was much more competitive down the stretch, including a 61-51 win at Michigan State. The Orange and Blue also broke the school record for three-pointers made with 202 and finished eighth and 13th nationally in steals and turnover margin, respectively. On the recruiting front, two Illini commits earned All-America honors, as Chatrice White became only the second McDonald's All American in Illinois program history and Amarah Coleman earned honorable mention WBCA All-America honors.
In 2012-13, the Illini reached the Women's NIT quarterfinals and saw attendance at the Assembly Hall increase 80 percent from 2011-12 to an average of 1,926, the third-highest average attendance increase in Division I women's basketball. Illinois also defeated three ranked opponents: No. 6 Georgia, No. 24 Iowa and No. 24 Ohio State, with the win over the Buckeyes snapping their 31-game home winning streak. The win over the Hawkeyes also broke an eight-game skid against Iowa.
The Illini shattered the Big Ten record for steals, steals per game and turnovers forced in a conference season, and also broke school records for steals, turnovers forced and three-pointers made in a season. Senior forward Karisma Penn became one of the country's most dominant post players, averaging 19.2 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.9 steals and 2.2 blocked shots per game with 50.6 percent field-goal shooting, all of which ranked in the top five in the Big Ten. She was named an Associated Press honorable mention All-American and also earned two national player of the week honors. Senior guard Adrienne GodBold earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors after posting 55 steals in 16 conference games and routinely guarding opponents' top offensive players.
Bollant came to Illinois after a successful five-year stint at Green Bay, where he guided the Phoenix to five straight Horizon League titles and four straight trips to the NCAA Tournament. He led Green Bay to a 148-19 record (.886 winning percentage) in five years, including an 85-5 mark in the Horizon League. The Phoenix were a combined 65-4 in his final two seasons in Green Bay, going 34-2 in 2010-11. Green Bay was ranked as high as No. 9 in the national polls in both 2010-11 and 2011-12, finishing the 2011 season with that ranking. In 2010-11, Green Bay went 4-0 against the Big Ten, defeating Minnesota, Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan State. In 2011-12, the Phoenix downed Illinois 82-62 at the San Juan Shootout and had triumphs over No. 25 Georgia Tech - a team that reached the Sweet 16 - Marquette and Wisconsin.
Green Bay had four wins over ranked opponents in the last four seasons, including a 65-56 victory over No. 12/13 Michigan State in the 2011 NCAA second round. The Phoenix entered the tournament as a No. 5 seed, defeating the No. 4 Spartans to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time school history. Green Bay also defeated No. 21 Virginia 69-67 in the first round of the 2010 tournament.
Green Bay lost to Iowa State in Ames by just four points (60-56) in the NCAA second round in 2010. In 2012, Green Bay returned to the site for NCAA first and second round play. Entering the tournament as the No. 10 seed, the Phoenix defeated the No. 7 seed Cyclones on the their home floor, 71-57, before seeing a comeback fall short against No. 2 seed Kentucky (65-62) in the second round.
Bollant was named the Horizon League Coach of the Year for the fourth time in 2012, guiding Green Bay to a 31-2 record despite losing Horizon League co-Players of the Year Kayla Tetschlag and Celeste Hoewisch. Senior Julie Wojta was a finalist for the Wade Trophy and earned WBCA Second Team All-America honors.
Bollant has an .837 winning percentage as a collegiate coach, including a 134-36 record at Bryan (Tenn.) College from the NAIA level. He guided the Lady Lions to four straight NAIA Tournaments, reaching the Sweet 16 in 2005-06. Bryan reached the top 25 rankings each of his last four years, reaching as high as No. 11 at the end of the 2006-07 season. Bollant coached four Appalachian Athletic Conference Players of the Year.
Bollant was as an assistant coach under Kathi Bennett, the daughter of former Wisconsin men's coach Dick Bennett, for five seasons before becoming a collegiate head coach. He served three years under Bennett at Evansville, helping the Purple Aces to the 1999 NCAA Tournament, then followed her to Indiana, where the Hoosiers became the lowest seed (5) to win the Big Ten Tournament in 2002.
A 1994 graduate of Winona State University with a degree in business education, Bollant received a master's degree in education from American Intercontinental University. He served as both the varsity and junior varsity head coach of Depper Life Academy in the Philippines and spent three years as the head coach at Tigerton (Wis.) High School, guiding the Tigers to a 63-10 record and to three Central Wisconsin Conference Small School titles from 1994-97.
He and his wife, Kari, have two daughters, Abi and Regan.
What They're Saying
"I'm very happy for Matt. He's a first-class person. First and foremost, he's a very good guy. I have not coached against many tougher teams in my career than the Green Bay team we faced in the NCAA Tournament. Illinois made an excellent choice. I think he is a coach at the very top of our profession and I think he'll do a great job at Illinois."
"Matt is a great choice to lead the Illinois program. He will do a great job of building a program on and off the court that will make everyone associated with the University of Illinois proud."
THE BOLLANT FILE
Hired: March 28, 2012
Bollant Collegiate Head Coaching Record
* Appalachian Athletic Conference at Bryan, Horizon League at Green Bay
Bollant Coaching Honors