Ohio State and Thad Matta have parted ways after the long-time Buckeyes coach abruptly announced his departure from the program on Monday. Now OSU will immediately go into scramble-mode trying to find a new head basketball coach, and everyone is curious who the school will target.
First, lets get this out of the way: Neither Sean Miller nor his brother Archie Miller will be going to Columbus. Why? Because both already have better jobs at Arizona and Indiana respectively. Billy Donovan is also almost certainly not going to Ohio State. Donovan will come back to college for a top five or maybe top seven job, the Buckeyes rest outside that realm.
Don’t get me wrong, Ohio State is a very good job but Donovan and the Millers aren’t looking to play second-fiddle to football. Heck, Donovan has already done that. Those guys aren’t leaving their current jobs for a place without a rabid, basketball-first fan base. The Buckeyes averaged just 12,324 fans per home game this season, which ranked 24th nationally. They filled their arena to just 64.7 percent of capacity. In 2015-16 the average was 12,284 per game and 64.48 percent capacity. Donovan can do better and he knows it.
All that said, there are some great candidates out there who would likely jump at the chance to take over the Ohio State gig. Here’s a look at some realistic targets.
Chris Mack, Xavier
Chis Mack is an Ohio native who has taken Xavier to impressive heights during his eight seasons on campus. The 47-year-old has posted a 187-91 (.673) record, while racking up two Atlantic 10 titles, four Sweet Sixteen trips and an Elite Eight berth in 2017.
Mack, from the same school where Matta departed to go to Ohio State, is one of the most sought after coaches in Division I and the Buckeyes would do well to make him their No. 1 choice. He’s a fantastic tactician, a good recruiter and his teams play tough and smart. He’d be a perfect fit in the Big Ten.
Scott Drew, Baylor
Scott Drew is a Midwesterner who grew up in Indiana and was an assistant at Valparaiso for 10 years under his father Homer before taking over the head gig from 2002-03. He took over at Baylor in 2003 and has posted a record of 279-179 (.609) since. He’s guided the Bears to seven NCAA Tournament appearances during his 14 seasons and has reached four Sweet Sixteens and two Elite Eights.
Basically, Drew has taken Baylor from sanctions and irrelevance to a real part of the national conversation. But after 14 seasons in Waco, he may want a new challenge and his up-tempo, high-flying style would be fun to watch at Ohio State.
Chris Holtmann, Butler
Chris Holtmann has worked wonders at Butler, considering he took over a program that was adrift when he was named the head coach in 2014. During his three seasons in charge, the Bulldogs have racked up a 70-31 record (.693), with three trips to the NCAA Tournament and a Sweet Sixteen appearance this year. He was also named the Big East Coach of the Year in 2017.
Holtmann was an NAIA All-American at Taylor University and, like Mack, the 45-year-old’s teams are tough, smart and disciplined. I’m anxious to see what he could to with the resources of a bigger program behind him.
Gregg Marshall, Wichita State
The issue here for Gregg Marshall is that he’s got a fantastic team returning and will have a real shot at reaching the Final Four, and maybe even more. The issue for Ohio State is that Marshall already makes more than $3 million a year at Wichita State.
Since taking over the Shockers in 2007, Marshall has racked up a stunning 261-90 record (.744), won five Missouri Valley Conference championships and reached the NCAA Tournament in each of the last six seasons. He also guided them to the Final Four in 2013, and they have eclipsed the 30-win mark in four of the last five years.
Ohio State would have to pony up some serious cash to get Marshall and I’m not convinced he wants to leave. Especially not with a loaded team returning and he can basically do whatever he wants at Wichita. It’s a pretty great gig for him.
Mick Cronin, Cincinnati
Mick Cronin might be the most underrated coach in college basketball. The 45-year-old Cincinnati native has taken his alma mater’s wayward basketball program and turned it into a formidable one. Cronin took the reins in 2006, and has compiled a 237-135 record (.637), that includes seven straight NCAA Tournament berths. He also led the Bearcats to an American Athletic Conference regular season title in 2014, and a Sweet Sixteen in 2012.
What’s important to note here is that Cronin is doing all of this with limited resources. While Cincinnati is renovating Fifth Third Arena, This isn’t a program with tons of cash to throw around. He’d likely jump at the chance to run a Big Ten program with the pedigree Ohio State would offer.