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Ohio State doesn’t plan to use a search firm to find a replacement for Thad Matta, which suggests that athletic director Gene Smith already has zeroed in on a possible successor as men’s basketball coach.
There isn’t time to waste, not with Ohio State’s surprising announcement on Monday that Matta was being let go after 13 seasons occurring within a month of the July recruiting period of skills camps and AAU tournaments.
“I don’t have a timeline,” Smith said. “No time (for a change) is optimal, but obviously this time is not the best, so I need to be sensitive to what I’m dealing with in this window.”
Matta has agreed to help in the national search, one of the many awkward aspects of Monday’s announcement, but that doesn’t necessarily mean someone from his coaching tree will be favored to replace the Buckeyes’ all-time winningest coach.
Smith will make this hire, and he already has missed out on Archie Miller, a former Matta assistant at Ohio State who left Dayton for Indiana in late March after Tom Crean was fired.
Crean is out of work and has Big Ten recruiting ties, but he had the fervent Indiana fan base turn on him.
Sean Miller, brother of Archie, is another former Matta assistant, but he is at a basketball powerhouse in Arizona, and his Wildcats could be ranked No. 1 going into next season.
Billy Donovan, 52, won two national championships in 19 seasons at Florida, but he is making $6 million a year in the NBA coaching Oklahoma City and MVP candidate Russell Westbrook.
Even if Donovan wanted back in the college game, would Ohio State be willing to pay a basketball coach an annual salary of $6 million or more? Matta was scheduled to make $3.5 million next season with the Buckeyes.
Urban Meyer, who was at Florida along with Donovan, has a $6.5 million salary to coach football at Ohio State.
This is Columbus. Nobody in town dresses up to impersonate Fred Taylor like they do for Woody Hayes. Ohio State won its only national championship in basketball in 1960.
Ohio ties could lead Smith to Xavier coach Chris Mack or Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin, especially with Smith wanting more emphasis on in-state and Midwest recruiting.
However, those close to Mack think that if he were ever to leave Xavier, his alma mater, it would be for the job at Louisville, his wife’s hometown. He just bought a new home in northern Kentucky and seems happy at Xavier.
Regarding to Cronin, would Ohio State be willing to put aside the basketball deep-freeze that has existed between the Buckeyes and Cincinnati since the early 1960s?
Looking for a big name with Ohio ties? How about West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, who a source said would be interested in the job. Huggins could immediately alter in-state recruiting, but he turns 64 in September.
Would UCLA coach Steve Alford want to come back to the Midwest? He didn’t bite for the job at Indiana, where he starred in his native state. And his UCLA contract reportedly has a $7 million buyout.
Gregg Marshall has done a wonderful job at Wichita State, but some believe his personality is too edgy to be a CEO type of a Power Five program.
Chris Holtmann at Butler, where Matta played and coached for a season, and Buzz Williams of Virginia Tech are two other names Smith might consider.
“In basketball, you have to take your time to find the right kind of person,” Smith said.