COLUMBUS, Ohio — On Monday, Ohio State fired its all-time winningest coach in men’s basketball history.
Right now, it’s not looking as if the Buckeyes had much of a plan to replace him.
Nearly 12 hours after ESPN.com’s Jeff Goodman reported Ohio State had offered its job to Greg McDermott, the Creighton head coach announced he’ll be staying in Omaha.
I’m blessed and honored to be the coach at Creighton…..and am looking forward to many more great years in Omaha! #rolljays
— Coach McDermott (@cucoachmac) June 8, 2017
The Chicago Bulls’ Fred Hoiberg previously indicated he isn’t interested in the job either, nor is Xavier’s Chris Mack.
Offering McDermott, whose past four years have been slightly less impressive than Thad Matta’s, already seemed like an act of desperation. If McDermott was Plan C, it’s tough to imagine what Plan D or E might look like.
At this point, the Buckeyes’ best move appears to be hiring an interim coach.
On Wednesday, the Columbus Dispatch’s Adam Jardy reported Ohio State assistant Chris Jent was interviewing for his alma mater’s vacancy, although most wrote it off as a mere courtesy. Jent is a loyal alum who’s spent two stints on Matta’s staff. He might not be the right candidate to replace his former boss, but giving him the experience of the job interview can’t hurt.
Now Jent, who possesses experience an NBA assistant coach and interim coach, might be better than any of the Buckeyes’ existing alternatives.
Hire Jent — or fellow Matta assistant Greg Paulus, for that matter — and slap him with an interim tag. No, it wouldn’t freshen up the program, something Ohio State basketball desperately needs. And the uncertainty would hurt the Buckeyes on the recruiting trail, particularly in a loaded 2018 Ohio class.
But as former Ohio State walk-on and The Ringer’s Mark Titus pointed out, this hire isn’t about the next one or two years, but the next 10 or 20. The Buckeyes just fired their most successful coach in the last 50 years. They can’t afford to rush this hire.
Yet, that’s exactly what Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith appears to be doing. As per Jardy, multiple players on the team expect the Buckeyes to have a new coach by the end of the week. Ohio State waited until June to fire its 13-year head coach. What’s the rush now?
Unless Smith has an ace up his sleeve, the Buckeyes would be best served kicking the can down the road to 2018. Maybe Jent or Paulus could impress enough in the next year to lock up the job long-term. Perhaps it could be enough time for Ohio State to save its 2018 class with a splashy hire next spring.
But at this point, the Buckeyes reek of the stinky cologne that is desperation. Given the circumstances, Ohio State should aim to look toward the long term, while staying in-house in the interim.