Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Possession Arrow: Where Does Ohio State Go From Here?

By Pat Tregoning, @PatNShaker

Welcome back to another edition of Possession Arrow.

After 13 seasons, Thad Matta is out as Head Coach at The Ohio State University.

Matta joined the Buckeyes in 2004 after spending three seasons with the Xavier Musketeers. While at Ohio State, he finished with a record of 337 wins and 123 losses, including four Big Ten Tournament titles, and his Buckeye teams appeared in the NCAA Tournament's Round of 16 (or later) five different times, including a Final Four appearance in 2011-12 season and losing the National Championship game to Billy Donovan and Florida during the 2006-07 season. Thad took a program that former coach Jim O'Brien (for lack of better words), ran into the ground with NCAA scandals and sanctions.

Matta left an incredible mark on the Buckeye program. But enough with the past, it's time to look to the future.

Following any changes we may experience in life, people will often ask themselves this question. "Where do we go from here?". In this issue, I will give you some potential names to watch as candidates for this opening, plus a couple of "dark-horse" candidates as well.

Chris Mack, University of Xavier

Of all the names out there, Mack probably makes the most sense (and his my favorite in the clubhouse). Taking over for Sean Miller when he went to Arizona starting in 2009, Mack has found nothing but success for the Musketeers. Amassing a career record of 187-91 with seven NCAA Tournament appearances (three Sweet Sixteens and one Elite Eight appearance as an 11 seed last season). He is very respected in the Ohio recruiting scene as well, which checks the biggest need Gene Smith is looking for. This wouldn't be a Sean Miller level hire, but if Ohio State wants to get better? This is a great starting block.

Chris Holtmann, University of Butler

Another name that always pops up when a big coaching job comes open is Butler's Chris Holtmann. After replacing Brad Stevens at Butler, Holtmann has led the Bulldogs to the NCAA Tournament in all three of his years at the school. He is a very well respected young coach (45) in the Midwest. The only thing missing (based on what Gene Smith is looking for)? His ties to the state of Ohio. He served as an assistant for John Groce at Ohio University from only 2008 to 2010.

Mick Cronin, University of Cincinnati

Mick Cronin has been a great coach for the Bearcat basketball program. Taking over a team that was flailing trying to find the replacement for Bob Huggins in 2006, Cronin stepped in. In just four seasons, he had the Bearcats going from 11 wins and two wins in conference play, to a 26-9 record and an NCAA Tournament berth. He (like Mack) is a coach that specializes in Ohio recruiting, which is a big need according to AD Gene Smith. The only thing that could stand in the way of Cronin coming to Columbus is whether or not he wants to leave Cincinnati, a place that he has called home since birth. With an annual salary of 2.2 million dollars per year, it's going to take a lot of money to convince Cronin to head up the road to Columbus as well.

Gregg Marshall, Wichita State University

It wouldn't be a major college hoops coaching search without mentioning the highly successful Marshall. I think it is no question that Marshall is the best coach in a non Power Five conference. At a large salary of over three million dollars a year, at a job that is probably his for life, I think it’s very hard to imagine a scenario where Marshall makes the leap. But I think if Marshall DID take a Power five job? He would want one at a respected institution like an Ohio State. This is the kind of job that he would take.
Billy Donovan, Oklahoma City Thunder (formally University of Florida)

This is a very dark horse candidate for the job. If Ohio State wants to shoot for the stars, this is the way to go. His body of work speaks for itself, leading Florida to multiple national championships. However, he is in a great situation with the Thunder and superstar Russell Westbrook. If Gene Smith wants to get Donovan back into the college game? He is going to need to write the blank check and let Donovan fill the amount in.

Tom Crean (formally Indiana University)

This is a name that not many are talking about, but they really should. Crean was recently let go by Indiana after a season that was loaded with great expectations (including a preseason top 10 ranking), end in great disappointment. Before Indiana, Tom Crean found success in another Midwest school, Marquette. At Marquette, he led Marquette to five NCAA appearances including a Final Four appearance in the 2003 tournament (led by Dwayne Wade). He is a knowledgeable mind when it comes to Midwest recruiting and even though he doesn't have the "Ohio ties", he is a name that can resonate with potential recruits. I think this is the kind of situation that could be a success for all parties if Ohio State goes with Crean.

Don't forget about these guys either...

Shaka Smart, Texas
Chris Jent, Ohio State Assistant Coach
Buzz Williams, Virginia Tech
Jeff Boals, Stony Brook Head Coach (former long time Matta assistant)

Long shot candidates to consider

Sean Miller, Arizona Wildcats
Brad Stevens, Boston Celtics
Tony Bennett, University of Virginia
Bob Huggins, University of West Virginia
Fred Hoiberg, Chicago Bulls (former Iowa State head coach)

In the end, we can sit here and debate all day whether or not they should've made this move immediately after the season, when Indiana coach Archie Miller was right in their laps. All we can say now is if Gene Smith wants to resurrect the basketball program to what it was in the mid 2000s with Matta? He must and I mean MUST hit on this hire.

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