CLEVELAND -- The Ohio State Buckeyes will be getting a new basketball coach after it was announced in a joint press conference Monday afternoon that Thad Matta was retiring from the program, effective immediately.
Initial reports said Matta would retire after the 2017-2018 season, but then, it was made public that the decision to leave the program was an immediate course of action for the 49-year old coach with a history of health issues, some of which came as a result of back surgery in 2007.
With a national search currently underway, here are three names that could be of interest to the Buckeyes.
CHRIS MACK, XAVIER UNIVERSITY
The Jesuit University in Cincinnati is the school that Ohio State went to when they brought in Matta following the 2002 season, and could very well be a destination again should the Buckeyes make another trip down Interstate 71 in their search.
Mack led the Xavier Musketeers on a deep NCAA Tournament run this past March despite injuries and mid-season struggles.
Under Mack’s guidance, Xavier shook off a six-game losing streak and the loss of starting point guard Edmond Sumner for the remainder of the season to advance to the semifinals of the Big East Conference Tournament.
Despite an 11-seed in the West Region, Xavier fought their way to a win over Maryland before blowing out the third-seeded Florida State Seminoles, 91-66, in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament. Then, Xavier got its signature win of the tournament over the highly-touted University of Arizona Wildcats, and former coach Sean Miller, to advance to the Elite Eight.
After the loss to Creighton in the Big East semifinals, the Musketeers defeated the Nos. 6, 3 and 2 seeds in the West Region on the way to the Elite Eight for the third time in school history, and first time since 2008.
Mack is 186-91 in eight seasons at Xavier, and has guided the Musketeers to seven trips to the NCAA Tournament in those years. Xavier has won at least 21 games in seven of those seasons and 23 or more in six campaigns.
Also, Mack helped guide the Musketeers through their transition from the Atlantic 10 Conference to the Big East prior to the 2013-2014 season.
KEITH DAMBROT, DUQUENSE UNIVERSITY
The former head coach of The University of Akron recently took over the Duquesne program in Pittsburgh, but a potential buyout clause in his contract would not be difficult for Ohio State’s athletic department to absorb if they chose to go with a coach familiar with recruiting talents in and around Ohio.
Dambrot is no stranger to rebuilding a program either, as he finished the 2017 season a 305-139 record at Akron, including a 155-65 mark in conference action. The Zips carried a 30-game home winning streak through much of the last two seasons, and that set a new mark for consecutive wins at The James A. Rhodes Arena.
Akron was 175-24 at The JAR under Dambrot’s direction.
During the 2016-2017 regular season, Akron posted a 24-7 record, including a 14-4 slate in MAC play, which marked the 12th straight season the Zips had won at least 21 games. Along with Akron, only Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas and Ohio State had posted 11 straight 21-win seasons.
Dambrot guided the Zips to a 21-6 record in their last 27 MAC Tournament games under his direction.
JEFF BOALS, STONY BROOK UNIVERSITY
If the Buckeyes want a coach familiar with the program, perhaps they look at Stony Brook bench boss Jeff Boals, who served as an assistant under Matta from 2009 to 2016.
With Boals on the staff, the Buckeyes posted 193-62 record with three outright or shared Big Ten championships, six NCAA Tournament appearances and a trip to the Final Four during the 2011-2012 season.
Boals was known for his recruiting prowess, having signed future NBA players in Jared Sullinger and D’Angelo Russell to play for the Buckeyes, as well as scrappy point guard Aaron Craft, who became the school’s all-time leader in steals and assists.
Also, Boals spent three seasons with the Zips under Dambrot, where he helped the program win the 2009 MAC Championship and secure the school’s first NCAA Tournament berth in 25 years.
In his first season at Stony Brook, Boals posted an 18-14 record.