During a press conference Tuesday in which Scoonie Penn was officially introduced as Ohio State’s new director of player development, the former Buckeyes All-American said he had aspirations of one day becoming a college head coach and chasing national championships.
“My goal isn't to be an assistant coach my whole career," Penn said. "I understand the progression, the steps, but I just think that with how I am and my personality, I would love to be the coach at a big program and the ultimate goal is to win national championships. If you're not in it for that, then what are you in it for?"
It’s not quite high-level college basketball, but Penn is getting his first taste of what coaching is all about as the man leading a team filled with Ohio State alums in The Basketball Tournament. And when he was asked about his team’s preparations for Saturday’s matchup in the Super 16, Penn got caught up in the moment.
“If you looked at our stats," Penn said before pausing momentarily. "Wow. I sound like a real coach right now."
The team led by Penn primarily made up of former Buckeyes including Aaron Craft, Jared Sullinger, Jon Diebler, David Lighty, William Buford, Dallas Lauderdale and Evan Ravenel is named Scarlet & Gray. The group played a pair of games last weekend in the first and second round of the 64-team event and came away with a pair of double-digit victories.
Scarlet & Gray knocked off The Region in the opening round, 78–63, and followed that up with a 72–58 victory against Banner Boys to advance to the Super 16. The former Buckeyes face off against Always A Brave — a team made up of Bradley University alums — on Saturday at noon in Brooklyn. The game is scheduled for noon and can be seen on ESPN.
“I think you can tell that we've played together," Craft said. "I think one of the better things we do is we're a pretty unselfish team but I still think at times we can be a little bit too unselfish. ... We're really trying to be cognizant of making the right passes, moving the ball and not trying to turn this into a one-on-one thing."
The experience has been an enjoyable one for this group of Ohio State players who starred in Columbus under former head coach Thad Matta. The Buckeyes have their entire starting five and sixth man from their 2010–11 team that went 34–3 and was college basketball’s top team all season before falling at the buzzer to Kentucky in the Sweet 16.
It’s something they’d like to continue doing in the future, too. Perhaps there’s a chance The Basketball Tournament comes to Columbus soon, as well. If Scarlet & Gray had an opportunity to play in front of Ohio State fans in the opening rounds, it’s hard to imagine the support not being there.
“It would be crazy," Craft said of a potential Columbus appearance. "I would love it. It was definitely more of a college game for [Bradley last weekend] and you could tell. The crowd was behind them and so if we're fortunate enough to get to that point that would be great."
For now, though, the team of former Buckeyes is focused on going after that $2 million prize and representing the place they once played. They’re four wins away from a title and the next step is Saturday.
"It's just representing the university again," Diebler said. "You can ask any one of these guys and they wish they had another four years to play at Ohio State. I know we're not called Ohio State but we're an Ohio State team so for us to come out and represent the university again that's kind of what we're playing for."
Obviously, we want to win but for us to come out and put on the scarlet and gray again, that means a lot to us."