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Gonzaga director of operations Stephen Gentry hired at Illinois as assistant coach

UPDATED: Tue., Aug. 27, 2019

Stephen Gentry, center, is leaving Gonzaga’s staff to become an assistant coach at Illinois. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Stephen Gentry, center, is leaving Gonzaga’s staff to become an assistant coach at Illinois. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Stephen Gentry is leaving his role as Gonzaga’s director of basketball operations to reunite with his former boss, Brad Underwood, at Illinois.

Gentry has been hired as an Illini assistant coach, the Big Ten school announced Tuesday. Gentry was at Gonzaga for two seasons.

Gentry worked four seasons for Underwood at Stephen F. Austin and Oklahoma State. Gentry was set to accompany Underwood to Illinois prior to the 2017-18 season but changed his mind when Gonzaga offered the director of operations position.

The two talked frequently the last two seasons, taking a brief respite when the Zags outlasted Illinois 84-78 in the opening round of last year’s Maui Invitational.

“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 in an Illinois release. “I am excited to have him return to our bench coming off two incredibly successful years at Gonzaga with Coach (Mark) 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.”

Underwood called Gentry “a very innovative thinker” prior to the GU-Illinois game last November.

Gentry was a walk-on at Gonzaga but lettered three times before completing his career in 2006.

Gentry had a chance to return to Gonzaga in 2014, but he turned down an offer to become director of operations. John Jakus accepted the job and left Gonzaga following the 2017 season to become an assistant at Baylor.

Gentry’s duties at Gonzaga included scheduling, analytics, scouting and, in his words, “just being another set of eyes.”

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