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Mid-major coaches to watch in Ohio State’s coaching search

Thad Matta leaves big shoes to fill in Columbus

Winthrop v Butler Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Thad Matta is out at Ohio State after 13 years at the helm. Matta went 337-123 during his tenure in Columbus, and his .733 win percentage is the third-best in Big Ten history behind only Bo Ryan and Bob Knight.

The timing of this announcement is a bit perplexing considering most schools made their coaching changes two months ago. Ohio State becomes arguably the second-best job opening of this offseason after Indiana.

A few big names have been thrown out as possible replacements for Matta, including Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall, Xavier’s Chris Mack, Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin, Butler’s Chris Holtmann and former Indiana coach Tom Crean (!).

It’s possible that Ohio State could run into some difficulties trying to lure a coach away from his current program in the middle of June. If that’s the case, than the short list could get a bit longer. Here are three mid-major coaches worth keeping an eye on as the Buckeyes search for their next head coach.

Pat Kelsey (Winthrop)

The Cincinnati native has done quite a job turning around Winthrop’s program in just five short years, leading it to back-to-back Big South titles the last two seasons. Kelsey served as Chris Mack’s top assistant at Xavier from 2009-2012, so he knows the Ohio landscape. Kelsey’s relationships with Ohio high school coaches could pay dividends should he take over at Ohio State. And he’s shown he’s willing to leave Rock Hill, briefly becoming the coach at UMass this offseason before returning to the Eagles.

Jeff Boals (Stony Brook)

Boals boasts greater Ohio State connections than anyone else on this list. He served as an assistant under Matta from 2009-2016 before taking the head coaching job at Stony Brook. Many Ohio State boosters and alumni may feel uneasy about hiring a coach with only one year of head coaching experience under his belt, but Boals has certainly shown potential to develop into an elite Division I coach. The Seawolves went 18-14 and finished second in the America East in his debut season, even after losing a number of key players (including Jameel Warney) off Steve Pikiell’s 2015-16 league champion team.

Dan Hurley (Rhode Island)

The Hurley name is one of the most respected in the coaching profession. Dan’s father, Bob, is one of the most successful coaches in the history of high school basketball, and his older brother, Bobby, is currently the head coach at Arizona State. In his five seasons at URI, Hurley has taken the Rams from single-digit wins to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. He’s recruited some of the best talent at the mid-major level, including E.C. Matthews and Hassan Martin. He doesn’t have any Ohio connections to speak of, but his name recognition and coaching prowess could make him a solid sleeper pick in the Ohio State sweepstakes.