Head coach Thad Matta has ridden into the sunset in Columbus, and it’s time for speculation to begin. The timing of the coaching change is not a good one, but there are still some names out there that would love to get a shot at running a program with the resources and pedigree of Ohio State. Here are your top candidates to replace Matta when all the scarlet and gray dust settles.
Shortly after the shocking news of Matta’s departure, we get this from a local sportscaster at the ABC affiliate in Columbus.
Insider says OSU wish list includes:
Brad Stevens, Tony Bennett, Jay Wright, Sean Miller & Billy Donovan.
— Clay Hall (@claywsyx6) June 5, 2017
Look, I know Ohio State has some things going for it. Anyone that follows the program knows the amount of money and resources available. So let’s check that box. Ohio is also a very, very underrated and fertile recruiting ground despite the known slant towards football (LeBron James anyone).
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. Though OSU can puff out its chest for having the seventh most Final Fours of all-time (and the most in the Big Ten), and a slew of Big Ten titles and NCAA tournament runs, this isn’t North Carolina or Kentucky. And it certainly isn’t the NBA.
Bottom line? there’s a draw, but not enough to pull away Stevens or Donovan from the NBA, and there’s no way Sean Miller or Jay Wright are leaving very good situations and programs in their own right. Not for Ohio State. Sorry.
Maybe there’s a shot at Tony Bennett, but I just don’t see that being a sexy enough hire once all the stakeholders have their say.
The Real Candidates
So who are the real candidates? When timing, opportunity and desire all meet at a table and discuss.
Chris Jent, Ohio State assistant coach: That’s right. You can’t rule out a current assistant coach already familiar with the program. Jent played for Ohio State, has NBA coaching experience, and can boast about being Lebron James personal shooting coach for a long minute. He left OSU as an assistant to pursue other opportunities, but Matta and the program thought enough of him to bring him back on board in 2015 to try and jump start things with his X’s and O’s on offense.
Greg Paulus, Ohio State assistant coach: Yep. Another assistant, but with seeds blended from both the Thad Matta and the Mike Krzyzewski trees. While he might not quite be ready to take the reigns of a program like Ohio State, he’s not far away from it. He’s a familiar face in the state and is going to get a shot somewhere soon.
Gregg Marshall, Wichita State head coach: All indications point towards Marshall being quite content at Wichita State, but let’s not forget that there was some dialogue with Alabama when that coaching position became available. Marshall’s philosophies and coaching style seems to fit in the Big Ten, and backing the U-Haul up to Columbus would be a shot at making a jump to a program that can pay more, and perhaps be more over the long run.
Chris Mack, Xavier head coach: It wouldn’t be the first time the Buckeye brass tapped Xavier for a head man. Matta himself got the gig in Columbus because of his resume in the greater Cincinnati area. Mack is young, has ties to the area and has shown an ability to recruit with limited resources. What could he do with a sweater bearing the flag-bearing program of the state on his person?
Mick Cronin, Cincinnati head coach: Cronin doesn’t have the Bearcats at the level of former head coach Bob Huggins, but he’s had his teams consistently in the Big Dance, and like Mack, has cultivated relationships within the area already. His teams are known for tough defense and a blue-collar attitude. That might not be sexy, but it wins games.
Tom Crean, former Indiana head coach: If athletic director Gene Smith is looking for an immediate splash hire, this is it. Crean has tons of personality and energy, knows how to recruit, and frankly, is a product of the expectations being too high at Indiana. He obviously knows the league and will be back at a big time program after the 2017-18 season if OSU doesn’t snatch him up first. If this gets more real than a tax audit on your birthday, queue up the bitterness between Columbus and Bloomington. Now where have we seen that before?