Hopefully, Thad Matta is Ohio State’s basketball coach for a long time.
For one thing, he’s still the most successful coach Ohio State as ever had. And Matta sticking around in Columbus for years would mean that the team would rebound for next season, after missing the NCAA Tournament two years in a row. After declining fortunes over the last several years, Matta enters this coming season on the hot seat.
But let’s just say, for the sake for an intellectual exercise, Thad Matta is not Ohio State’s head coach in the near future, either due to declining performance, health, or his new job as head coach of the Indiana Pacers. If that were to happen, who might Ohio State target?
Earlier, there was an obvious name, Dayton’s Archie Miller, a man who enjoyed massive success recruiting and playing just a short drive from Columbus. But Miller is now the head coach at Indiana, and prying him away from all of the #banners would be very unlikely in the short term.
So, who else might be on the list? Let’s take a look.
Chris Mack, Xavier head coach
Hey, hiring Xavier’s head coach worked out pretty okay for the Buckeyes last time, right? Mack has been excellent in Cincinnati, leading the Musketeers to the Elite Eight this season, and to the NCAA Tournament in seven of his eight seasons at the school, while boasting an impressive 277-186 record. Hiring a successful in-state coach would seem like the obvious move, but getting Mack out of Xavier might be hard. He’s a graduate of the school, he’s from Cincinnati, and his wife is from nearby Louisville. While Ohio State could offer a pay bump, Mack has a pretty solid gig right now, specially now that Xavier plays in the Big East.
Chris Jent, Ohio State assistant coach
This wouldn’t be a sexy hire, but it’s certainly one that would be on the table. Jent was a Buckeye basketball player, and an Ohio State assistant from 2011-2013, an era of great success in Columbus, before heading to the NBA. He’s never been a college head coach, but he was briefly an NBA head coach (interim, Orlando Magic), and he’s been a head coach in the G-League. He’s also a Buckeye assistant now, although if the Buckeyes struggle again next season, that might not be as much of a selling point.
Jeff Boals, Stony Brook head coach
An Ohio guy and a longtime Buckeye assistant coach who was so successful at crafting stringy defenses that I basically singlehandedly started the movement to get the guy a head coaching job (#HIREJEFFBOALS), Boals now has head coaching experience on his resume. Boals led the Seawolves to an 18-14 record in his first year as a head coach. He’s got a ton of Buckeye state ties, gets social media, and has a bright future ahead of him, but he also might be a teensy bit to green to take over the Buckeyes right now.
Pat Kelsey, Winthrop head coach
Kelsey isn’t a name you hear very often, since he doesn’t have an obvious Ohio State tie. But Kelsey is from Cincinnati, played and coached at Xavier, and also coached at Elder High School in the Queen City. He’s done a great job at Winthrop, with a 102-59 record over five years, with two conference titles, and an NCAA bid. He was hired at UMass to be their head coach for all of five minutes earlier this offseason before unceremoniously returning to Winthrop, but that shouldn’t preclude him from potentially working in Ohio.
Dan Muller, Illinois State head coach
Given his success, Muller sure looks like he’s on a crash course for a future Big Ten job. He doesn’t have Ohio ties, but he checks a lot of other potential boxes. He’s young (41), midwestern (from Lafayette, Indiana, and played and coached in the midwest), and he’s built a strong program at Illinois State over the last five years, guiding the Redbirds to a 28-7 record and an NIT bid last season.
Gregg Marshall, Wichita State head coach
Is this likely? Nope. But shoot for the moon, land for the stars, etc. Marshall is unquestionably the biggest name in the non-power conference market, having built a mid-major dynasty at Wichita State. He’s well paid (over $3 million), and he’s turned down big offers before. Alabama was able to get into serious talks with him earlier, and Ohio State is probably a better basketball job than Alabama. If the Buckeyes can really open their wallet, this is at least a possibility, albeit probably not a great one.