BasketballBig TenLet's Speculate!

Let’s Speculate! Potential Ohio State head basketball coach candidates

Welcome to Let’s Speculate! on Coaches Database, where we go through programs that are or may soon be looking for a new head coach and speculate who they may hire next.

Today’s program is Ohio State, coached by Chris Holtmann since 2017 (fired on Wednesday).

  • Lamont Paris – South Carolina head coach
    • Paris has led the Gamecocks to a very impressive turnaround in year two, which has quickly garnered the attention of the college basketball world. Hired in 2022 after a successful run at Chattanooga that culminated with a SoCon title, NCAA bid and 27 wins in his fifth year, Paris is about to double his win total from last year (11-21) this season (21-4 and counting). The Gamecocks are ranked #11 as of this writing, their highest showing since January 1998. Paris will be highly-coveted by bigger programs during this cycle, but the Ohio-native (and former Akron and Wisconsin assistant) may be best-suited for success in the Big Ten and his home state.
  • Eric Musselman – Arkansas head coach
    • Another SEC head coach with ties to Ohio is Musselman, a coach’s son who was born in the Buckeye State and returned to the Cleveland area for high school. Musselman is having his worst year in Arkansas, but his tenure overall has been the program’s most successful – at least from a NCAA Tournament perspective – since Nolan Richardson was in charge. The Razorbacks have been to the Elite Eight twice (plus another Sweet Sixteen) in the last three years and have won 20+ games in every season (before this one) that the Muss Bus has been there. Musselman is a journeyman who has coached at many levels and in many regions, finding success pretty much everywhere along the way. He’s never coached in Ohio but that didn’t stop him from winning in Nevada or Arkansas, and he brings a certain energy that the OSU fanbase is surely wanting for right now.
  • Nate Oats – Alabama head coach
    • OK here’s one more SEC head coach that may be looking for a fresh start, Oats’ tenure at Alabama has had some serious highs and lows. The Tide have been among the top teams in the league since Oats was hired in 2019, winning two SEC titles and going to three NCAA Tournaments (with a fourth coming this year). But off-court controversy has followed the team, especially last year with one of his players getting arrested for a fatal shooting and his star freshman Brandon Miller’s involvement in the incident. The on-court success, however, is hard to overlook. Alabama hadn’t won the SEC in almost twenty years and now they’ve won twice in the last three and are in first place in 2024 as of this writing. Oats is a Midwest guy, hailing from Wisconsin and previously coaching there and in Michigan. He has only been a college head coach since 2015 but has been a winner the entire time, including the two best seasons (32-4 and 27-9) in the history of the Buffalo men’s basketball program.
  • Mick Cronin – UCLA head coach
    • Cronin is rumored to be wanting to leave the West Coast for a better situation back East and as an Ohio-guy, the Ohio State gig might be the best possible scenario for him. He had consistent success at both Murray State and Cincinnati and actually did very well at UCLA over the last few years before his core guys exhausted their eligibility. The Bruins have taken a major slide backwards in 2023-24 and Cronin has been very vocal (and negative) to the press, but the rest of his resume is pretty pristine. UCLA is moving to the Big Ten after this season which maybe creates a natural reset point for both Cronin and the program.
  • Pat Kelsey – College of Charleston head coach
    • Kelsey was a consistent winner for a number of years at Winthrop before making the move to Charleston in 2021. In year two with the Cougars, he went 31-4 (16-2) and won the CAA title and Tournament. The team is in the hunt for another league title this year but even if they don’t win it Kelsey has again shown his ability to adapt and win quickly in a new situation. He’s from Cincinnati and played at for Skip Prosser at Xavier, later coaching under Prosser at Wake Forest and then under Chris Mack at his alma mater. Kelsey will be just 49 years old when next season starts and is someone who could come in and take over the Ohio State program for the long haul.
  • Will Wade – McNeese State head coach
    • Wade escaped the LSU situation mostly unscathed and has paid his minimal dues to the NCAA overlords. McNeese offered a lifeline, surely knowing he wouldn’t be there long, and he is already a winner there. The Cowboys are 21-3 overall and absolutely dominating the Southland at 10-1 and Wade is going to get offers in this cycle. We mentioned Wade for the DePaul job but Ohio State is a better job in virtually every way. He’s won at a football school before (LSU) and seems like someone who could step in and make an impact right away in Columbus.
  • Dusty May – Florida Atlantic head coach
    • One of the hottest names in college basketball after leading FAU to the Final Four a year ago, May is now coaching in the AAC and navigating a season in which his program has a number before its name and a target on its back. Mentioned for plenty of jobs in the last cycle, May ultimately signed a ten-year extension with a big raise and plenty of incentives to earn more if he can keep things rolling (as he’s done so far). But the AAC is not the Big Ten, and his contract numbers will pale in comparison to what a school like Ohio State can offer the 47-year old. May is an Illinois-native and was a student manager under Bob Knight at Indiana, leading to speculation he will hold out for the Indiana job when Mike Woodson‘s tenure ends. But Knight was an Ohio State guy and surely May could be, too.
  • Josh Schertz – Indiana State head coach
    • The latest example of a successful sub-DI coach coming up and quickly continuing that success, Schertz won 23 games last year at Indiana State after just 11 wins in year one. The Sycamores are favorites for the Missouri Valley title in 2024 and have hopes to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011. Schertz went to ten NCAA D-II Tournaments in thirteen years at Lincoln Memorial (TN), including three trips to the Final Four. A jump up to the Big Ten is a logical next step in his career, though he is likely to have plenty of options in this cycle to choose from.
  • Jeff Boals – Ohio head coach
    • There are a lot of names on this list with stronger resumes, but Boals deserves consideration given his immense ties to the state and program and the success he has had as a head coach. He won 24 games in his third year at Stony Brook, then took over at alma mater Ohio and led the Bobcats to the NCAA Tournament in year two and 25 wins in year three. The team is middle-of-the-pack this year but the overall body of work is solid. Boals is a member of the Thad Matta coaching tree, having been one of his assistants for seven seasons before getting the SBU job in 2016. He was in Columbus for three Big Ten titles and the 2012 trip to the Final Four and recruited some big names – including All-Americans D’Angelo Russell and Jared Sullinger – to the program.
  • Jerrod Calhoun – Youngstown State head coach
    • Calhoun is a member of the Bob Huggins coaching tree, serving as one of his student assistants at Cincinnati and later as an assistant for five seasons at West Virginia, and got his head coaching start at D-II Fairmont State in 2012. He went 124-38 there and led the Falcons to a National Runner-Up finish in 2017. Now at Youngstown State, Calhoun just led the Penguins to their first-ever Horizon League title and just missed out on their first-ever NCAA Tournament bid. The 41-year-old is going to get a lot of interest in the coming years if he keeps things up at YSU – though he could be headed to West Virginia instead.
  • Sean Miller – Xavier head coach
    • Miller is in a good situation at Xavier and we don’t think he’s looking to leave, but given the success that he has had there and at Arizona it would be hard not to at least kick the tires if you’re Ohio State. Miller will have options as long as he is winning – there could be a job opening at alma mater Pittsburgh in the next few years, for example – and moving just 100 miles away for more money and a chance to coach in the Big Ten does sound pretty good. But on the flip side, Ohio State fans are desperate to get over the hump and finally win another National Championship so hiring Miller, a guy who also has notably not been able to get over the hump, may not be all that exciting?
  • Chris Mack – former Xavier, Louisville head coach
    • Mack is ready to get back into coaching – he’s said it himself – and after the rough tenure at Louisville, a return to his home state may bring back the success he had during his nine seasons at alma mater Xavier. The Cleveland-native won 215 games with the Musketeers, went to eight NCAA Tournaments and advanced the Sweet Sixteen or further four times. His last year there, he led the program to 29 wins and a Big East title before leaving for Louisville in the offseason. That was not a great fit, but maybe Ohio State is.