Thad Matta is out at Ohio State, leaving a rare early June vacancy for an enticing Power 5 basketball coaching job. We’ve already discussed the possibility of Tom Crean going to Columbus next year. And the vacancy has already led to rumors about other fairly high-profile names, particularly Chris Mack of Xavier and Chris Holtmann of Butler. It’s an intriguing storyline in a time that’s often a very slow period for college basketball news.
In the comments section to the Crean piece yesterday, a debate sprung up about how good the Ohio State basketball job actually is. Obviously this is a top-10 national job - and probably even in the top 5 - for football. But most realistically, it’s also a top-15 job for basketball. Let’s go through the pros and cons of the position:
- Cash Rules Everything Around Me. Ohio State can afford to spend on a men’s basketball coach if they want. The athletic department is flushed with cash, thanks to good stewardship by AD Gene Smith, a successful half-decade in their flagship sport of football, and B1G expansion and TV contracts. The Buckeyes can pony up for this hire, if they choose to do so.
- Not as much pressure as a “basketball school.” Imagine having the resources of an IU, UK, or Duke, but also not the pressure to win a title every dang year. That’s what Ohio State gives you. While the fanbase goes crazy over losing a 5-star recruit or mocking Jim Harbaugh’s latest antics or scoring zero points in a college football playoff game (lol), you can fly under the radar in a way that you couldn’t in Lexington or Bloomington.
- A good recruiting area, and the biggest school in the state. Ohio has three major cities where you can snag in-state recruits from, and Indy is an easy drive over from Columbus on I-70. Thad Matta, of course, recruited Greg Oden and Mike Conley from Indy, and so the Hoosier State could be at your disposal as well. Xavier and Cincinnati are two other successful in-state programs, so it’s not as lopsided as football recruiting, but OSU is still top dog in Ohio.
- Recent success. A national title game appearance 10 years ago. A final four 5 years ago. Five B1G regular season titles. Regardless of how Matta’s tenure ended, he elevated the program to the next level, and the Buckeyes were consistently a threat in the league for several year. So taking this job wouldn’t have to result in a complete culture change.
- Not as much prestige as a “basketball school.” Sure, you can fly under the radar, but the jokes are certainly valid about the fanbase’s priorities.
If you think you're shocked about the Thad Matta news, just think how Ohio State fans will feel when they find out in January— Steve (@IlliniToffee) June 5, 2017
And even during a successful season, football still rules all.
Driving into Columbus, they were talking football recruiting on the radio. But the Schottenstein Center crowd looks quite ready for hoops.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) January 13, 2013
Second time in a month driving into Columbus for huge CBB game and they're talking football recruiting on radio.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) February 10, 2013
- This would be a rebuilding job. Ohio State has only nine scholarship players at the moment. The Buckeyes went 6-12 in conference last year and have missed the tourney twice in a row. They lost to RUTGER in the B1G Tourney in March. This is by no means a quick fix, and you’ll need to be patient if you want this job.
- The home court leaves something to be desired. The Schottenstein Center is under 20 years old, but it’s never exactly been on the list of toughest B1G home courts. It’s not as cavernous as the Bryce Jordan Center, but it also does not have the reputation of Assembly Hall or Mackey Arena as a tough road game venue. If the crowds at Schottenstein aren’t there, then the Buckeyes don’t have much of an advantage at home. Indiana had one of its two B1G road game victories there last year.
So, where does this leave the OSU job nationally? I’d put it squarely in the top 15 or 16. It’s not at the level of the college basketball “blue-bloods” (Kentucky, Louisville, Duke, UNC, Kansas, UCLA, Indiana) or the ones who approach that mark (MSU, Syracuse, UConn, Arizona, Villanova). But I’d put OSU in there with Michigan, Florida, and Texas, as football-first schools that have the resources and energy as well as recent success to make basketball desirable.
And finally, just for fun, let’s rank Big Ten basketball jobs by tiers, just to give everyone something else to argue about:
- Michigan State
- Ohio State
- Penn State