Ohio hoop programs embrace high expectations
Kent State's hiring of Rob Senderoff Thursday should signal the end of the coaching carousel in Ohio college basketball for the spring.
It's a crazy game, so don't forget the "should" part. But now comes the interesting part.
A year which saw four programs from the Buckeye State play in the NCAA Tournament saw only two coaching changes in its aftermath, Senderoff moving up a chair to take over after Geno Ford left for Bradley and Archie Miller taking over at Dayton.
Miller, a former Ohio State assistant, had been working under his brother, Sean, at Arizona. Sean Miller is the former coach at Xavier, who took over there after Thad Matta left for Ohio State.
Small world? In the coaching business, yes.
Miller, who's just 32, takes over a Dayton program that had a disappointing 2010-11 season and saw coach Brian Gregory leave for Georgia Tech. A year removed from an NIT title, the Flyers finished eighth in the Atlantic 10 and lost in the conference tournament title game.
Miller will bring energy and a defensive mindset to a program that not only wants to consistently beat Xavier and Temple in conference, but become a consistent NCAA Tournament qualifier.
Senderoff was the players' choice at Kent after Ford surprisingly left two weeks ago, and the university made his hiring official this week. He's served two different stints as a Kent assistant and inherits a team that will be favored to repeat as MAC regular-season champions next year.
There could have been other movement, too. Xavier coach Chris Mack -- the guy who took over for Sean Miller -- told Tennessee no thanks when he was approached about the vacancy there. Ohio State assistant Jeff Boals was mentioned as a person of interest for the openings at Dayton and Kent and interviewed at Fresno State, but he's decided to return to OSU. The coaches at Akron (Keith Dambrot), Cleveland State (Gary Waters) and Ohio University (John Groce) are almost always mentioned as candidates when other jobs open in the Midwest.
Boals came to Ohio State from Akron after Groce took the job at OU. Another former Akron assistant, Shaka Smart, did pretty well for himself this season. Smart also worked at Dayton before catching on at Florida, then VCU.
One move on the coaching front didn't involve a move at all as Mick Cronin got a contract extension at the University of Cincinnati after getting the Bearcats to their first NCAA Tournament since he took over five years. UC lost in the second round to eventual national champion UConn. The extension gives Cronin security through the 2016-17 season.
Cronin's goal, though, is to push forward, and he'll need to recruit well to do that and keep UC in the top half of the ultra-competitive Big East. He has a highly-touted recruiting class coming, and Cincinnati native Yancy Gates should return for his senior season.
UC is also reportedly in the mix for the player who might be Ohio's top uncommitted recruit, Semaj Christon of Cincinnati Winton Woods High School. Christon is also reportedly considering Xavier, Bradley, Dayton, Iowa and West Virginia.
Ford, a teammate of Boals at Ohio University and one of the best high school players this state has ever known, will undoubtedly try to recruit Ohio -- even if he can't land Christon -- now that he's at Bradley. Archie Miller will be recruiting against Xavier and Cincinnati at Dayton, a program which is losing Dayton native Juwan Staten to transfer after one year.
Ohio State should again be one of the country's best teams next season. A couple of way-too-early but respected polls for 2011-12 list Xavier as a top-15 team. Kent and Cincinnati will have the NCAA Tournament as a legitimate goal. It should be another good year for Ohio basketball, and the competition should only increase going forward.