Ohio State Coaching Search: Sean Miller Emerges As Early Frontrunner, Dusty May in Contact with Buckeyes, Greg McDermott Likely to Stay at Creighton

By Andy Anders on February 28, 2024 at 8:36 am
Sean Miller
Cara Owsley/The Enquirer/USA TODAY Network

As Ohio State’s season picks up some steam with two big wins in its last three games, so too has the search for its next head basketball coach.

With incoming athletic director Ross Bjork arriving at Ohio State on Friday to champion the hiring process, preliminary conversations have already gotten underway for the Buckeyes with some potential candidates. Other viable options have expressed public interest in the job, or a lack thereof in some cases.

Bjork gave the Columbus Dispatch some insight into what he’s looking for in the next head man. For the soon-to-be former Texas A&M AD, “experience in the chair matters.”

He added that there won’t be a rush to name the next head man.

“The key in all of this is because we have this time we can really do a lot of research,” Bjork said. “Then we can have a little bit of patience going into the first week of March. We should have an idea of where are we by Selection Sunday. Are we zeroed in on finalists? Are we zeroed in on a bigger group? Are they still playing? A lot of things will filter out over the next couple of weeks.”

Still, updates have trickled in across the two weeks since Chris Holtmann was fired with one candidate emerging as a potential frontrunner for the job.

Sean Miller

Miller has, by at least some accounts, emerged as an early frontrunner for the job. A source told Eleven Warriors’ Garrick Hodge that Miller is currently the leading candidate for the job.

In terms of “experience in the chair,” Miller makes a lot of sense for Ohio State. Now in his 19th season as a head coach, Miller boasts a career record of 455-173 (.724). He made six NCAA Tournaments in a row at Arizona from 2013 through 2018. Four of those trips saw the Wildcats make the Sweet 16, though none went to the Final Four.

Miller’s Arizona tenure ended in far, far less glorious fashion with him being at the center of an FBI investigation into NCAA basketball corruption involving Adidas illegal payments he made to players to attend Arizona. The Wildcats – who were not the only program implicated in the investigation – were tagged with five Level I NCAA violations and were forced to vacate two seasons’ worth of wins from 2016 through 2018. Miller was fired on April 7, 2021.

After a year away from coaching, Miller returned to Xavier – where he also coached before Arizona – before the 2022-23 season, leading the Musketeers to a Sweet 16 appearance in his first year back. This year, however, his squad is unlikely to make the NCAA Tournament or even the NIT, currently holding a 13-14 record.

Still, with 12 tourney berths, eight Sweet 16s and four conference tournament titles on his resume, there’s a reason it seems Miller is getting strong consideration.

Dusty May

Ohio State has held preliminary conversations with the Florida Atlantic head coach, per the Columbus Dispatch. After taking the mid-major Owls to a Final Four last season and pushing them to a 21-7 start this campaign, he’s one of the hottest prospects in the basketball coaching profession right now.

May signed a 10-year extension with Florida Atlantic before this season, but a buyout shouldn’t be hard to negotiate if Ohio State wants May in its captain’s chair. The highest hurdle to clear might come from Indiana, who could move on from Mike Woodson as its head coach after taking a step back in year three under his leadership in 2023-24. May is a Hoosier alum, serving as a student manager under legendary head coach Bob Knight. 

Chris Jent

Count Jent among those who have expressed interest in the Ohio State job. A Buckeye alum, Jent has spent 21 seasons as a coach since his playing days ended, all but two of them in the NBA. His lone year at the collegiate level came as an assistant under Thad Matta at Ohio State in 2016-17, Matta’s last campaign with the Buckeyes.

So, there’s experience with the New Jersey native. But when it comes to experience in the chair of being a head coach, Jent is lacking. He’s only held one head coaching job for one season, overseeing the G League’s Bakersfield Jam in 2015-16. Jent also served as interim head coach of the Orlando Magic for 18 games in 2005, going 5-13.

Lamont Paris

Paris is the only name on this list who holds a candle to May in the rising star category, quickly turning South Carolina around in his second season as the Gamecocks’ head coach and sixth season leading a college basketball program in total.

South Carolina went from 11-21 in his first season to 22-5 thus far this year and is currently ranked 18th in the AP Poll.

There are also plenty of Ohio ties with Paris. He was born and played college basketball in the Buckeye State at the College of Wooster. Paris was even an assistant coach at Akron for five seasons.

Inklings of a contract extension have permeated around the South Carolina coach, though, dulling some of the intrigue around his name.

Asked about his name being linked to the Ohio State job in an interview with the Toledo Blade this week, Paris said his focus is on the current season.

“You know, I pour even more back into our team,” Paris told the Blade. “I don’t do a lot on social media. I’m just not involved in a lot of noise, whether it’s good noise or bad noise. I’m more likely to be involved in good noise if it involves our team. And I do try to promote them in any way that I can in what they’re doing and what they’ve accomplished.”

Scoonie Penn

Everything said of Jent in the above section can be amplified in Penn’s case. Another former Ohio State player, and a lauded one at that as a key member of the 1998-99 Final Four team, Penn has expressed interest in becoming the Buckeyes’ head coach. Whether or not that interest is reciprocated by Bjork and company remains to be seen.

Penn’s coaching experience is more minimal than Jent’s, with five years as an assistant coach with the Memphis Grizzlies to his credit.

Greg McDermott

McDermott’s name has been floated since Holtmann received his walking papers, but the news on this front isn’t pointing toward Columbus.

Creighton is reportedly nearing an agreement on a contract extension with its longtime leader to keep him in Omaha, Nebraska, where he’s led the Bluejays to eight NCAA Tournament appearances and made the Sweet 16 twice. McDermott oversaw Creighton’s transition from the Missouri Valley Conference to the Big East in 2013 without missing a beat.

One of the top candidates alongside Holtmann when the coach was first hired seven years ago, it appears for now that McDermott is fading into the background of this coaching search.

Jake Diebler

All that’s been learned on the likelihood of Ohio State hiring its current interim head coach full-time has played out on the court. Diebler, thus far, has given the Buckeyes an immediate turnaround.

More will have to be achieved before he garners serious consideration, however. Bjork declined to comment on Diebler’s place in the search when asked by the Dispatch. He’s never been a head coach outside of an interim capacity. 

Jay Wright

The two-time national championship winner at Villanova turned CBS Sports analyst would have been a home run hire, of course, but he’s a name to cross off Ohio State’s list after informing the Dispatch that he’s not interested in returning to coaching.

"It's a great job," Wright said. "It has an outstanding athletic department, great tradition and fertile recruiting ground. ... It would be a great job, but I'm definitely done coaching."

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