But with Matta now done, it begins what will be one of the most fascinating job searches in years. Ohio State doesn’t have the history of some of the blue blood programs in this sport, but with an athletic department flush with cash in a recruiting rich area of the country, it is considered by many to be one of the best jobs in the country no one talks about. Of course they’re also trying to fill the job in mid-June, a truly tough time to lure a high-profile candidate away from another gig.
So with that as background who could the Buckeyes target? Here are seven names to keep an eye on.
Jason MowryJason Mowry-USA TODAY Sports
Billy Donovan (Oklahoma City Thunder head coach)
Donovan seems comfortable in the NBA (that $5 million a year salary can’t hurt) but you’ve got to wonder if he’s looking around the landscape and realizing the pros aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. If this Finals has proven anything it’s that it’ll be hard for any team not named the Golden State Warriors to emerge from the Western Conference the next few years; does he really want to go through the next four or five years with essentially no shot at competing for a title?
It’s worth asking, and this opening could come at the perfect time. Unlike other jobs that opened in the spring, Donovan’s season is already over. There will be no song-and-dance about waiting for the Thunder’s playoff run to end for him to begin discussing this job. If he wants it, he can go get it. And Ohio State would be foolish not to at least make a call to a coach with two national championships on his resume.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY SportsDale Zanine
Gregg Marshall (Wichita State head coach)
If the Buckeyes can’t get Donovan, Marshall should be their next call. He has built an absolute juggernaut at Wichita, one that has made six-straight NCAA tournaments and one Final Four. Had it not been for a nail-biting loss to Kentucky, the Shockers could have made another deep run this year. Plus, let’s keep in mind one thing: Plenty of ADs who have interviewed Marshall in the past, reportedly had concern over his controversial wife. It seems like that would be a relative non-issue in Columbus, where so much focus is on football.
But while Marshall looks great on paper, there is one big hold-up: His 2017-2018 team. The Shockers return virtually every key piece off last year’s club and rank No. 7 in Fox Sports’ post-NBA Draft decision Top 25 entering next season. Could Marshall walk away from what just might be the best Wichita team he’s ever had?
Copyright The Associated Press. All rights reserved.AP
Sean Miller (Arizona head coach)
Following Matta’s press conference, Miller’s name was immediately bandied about on social media as a potential replacement. He has Midwestern roots and ties to Matta’s coaching tree; he was actually the man who replaced Matta at Xavier when he left for Columbus.
While we have to put Miller on a list like this, it just doesn’t seem feasible that he’d actually leave Arizona. Miller has a team that’s the preseason No. 1 in our FOX Sports poll (and most others as well) and should continue to keep things rolling with a monster recruiting class shaping up for 2018 (Shaquille O’Neal’s son Shareef is already committed and the Wildcats are the favorites for a number of other five-star recruits). Plus, does he really want to go to a league where he’ll have to face his brother Archie at Indiana two times a year?
While this is the pipe-dream for Ohio State fans, it just doesn’t seem realistic at this point.
Chris Mack (Xavier head coach)
Mack is the guy who replaced the guy who replaced Matta at Xavier, filling in for Miller after he departed for Tucson back in 2009. And to his credit he’s taken the Musketeers to unprecedented heights since, making seven NCAA tournaments in eight years, including a run to the Elite Eight this past March. Mack has also proven to be an adept recruiter, as Xavier has inked the No. 8 ranked recruiting class in the country according to Scout.com.
All those are reasons why Mack would be a home run hire for Ohio State, but also pretty good reasons why he might want to stick around Xavier as well. The Musketeers have most of the key pieces returning from that Elite Eight team and when you add them in with that the recruiting class, they should start next season ranked somewhere in the Top 15. While Mack is a rising coaching star destined for a major job, it’s hard to see it happening this year. He’d have to walk away from an awful lot at Xavier.
Frank Victores-USA TODAY SportsFrank Victores
Mick Cronin (Cincinnati head coach)
If the Buckeyes whiff on Mack, is there any chance they go after his cross-town rival Mick Cronin? It seems feasible as Cronin has turned Cincinnati into one the best non-major conference programs in all of college basketball. Overall, the Bearcats have made each of the last seven NCAA tournaments.
At the same time, it does feel like the Cincinnati program has somewhat plateaued under Cronin, who has made it beyond the first weekend of the Big Dance just once in those seven trips. Could it be time for him to make a move somewhere else? Keep in mind he has flirted with other jobs in the past, notably when he reportedly accepted the UNLV job before eventually reneging.
Aaron DosterUSA TODAY Sports
Chris Holtmann (Butler head coach)
Matta may have begun his career at Butler, but Holtmann is the guy who has turned it into a hoops destination. He’s been at the school just three seasons, but notched at least one tournament win in each -- taking the Bulldogs to the Sweet 16 this season.
While he’s still relatively new to the scene, Holtmann was a hot name in coaching searches throughout the off-season, ranging from Indiana to Missouri and others. After sitting tight through the process could this be the gig that he eventually jumps to?
Doug McSchoolerAP photo
Tom Crean (former Indiana head coach)
This is an absolutely worst-case scenario for the Buckeyes. But considering that it’s June and most of the big names on this list not only have jobs, but good jobs, Crean will serve as the ultimate fallback plan. If no one is willing to leave their current gig, Ohio State could have no choice but to take the embattled former Indiana head coach who has made it very clear he wants to coach again.
But as unlikely as it is, here’s the truth: Crean isn’t as bad as most people think. Prior to his arrival at Indiana, he made three straight NCAA tournaments at Marquette, then took over an NCAA sanction ravaged program and returned them into a two-time Big Ten champ. It’s not the name Ohio State fans want to hear, but in mid-June Crean could be their best option. And the Buckeyes could do a lot worse.
Copyright The Associated Press. All rights reserved.