Candidates say OSU job still among best

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 19, 2004

COLUMBUS - Ohio State's next basketball coach will take over a program facing an NCAA investigation, but some say it's still a job worth having.

Virginia coach Pete Gillen, whose name is one of many being tossed around the media as a possible candidate to replace the fired Jim O'Brien, said coaching the Buckeyes would be a ''very prestigious job'' even though the team has struggled the last few seasons.

Gillen said Friday that he hasn't been contacted by Ohio State about the position and doesn't expect to be.

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''I'm very happy here at Virginia,'' he said.

O'Brien was fired June 8 after he admitted giving $6,000 in 1999 to Aleksandar Radojevic, a recruit who never played for the Buckeyes. His contract, which paid him more than $850,000 per year, specified the university could fire him for any NCAA violations.

NCAA rules prohibit student athletes from receiving financial help from anyone but family members.

Possible replacements for O'Brien discussed by fans and reporters alike include Gillen, Xavier's Thad Matta, Skip Prosser of Wake Forest, Kent State's Jim Christian, Dan Dakich of Bowling Green, Marquette's Tom Crean and Texas Tech's Bob Knight.

Recent published reports have said Knight is holding off on signing a contract extension with Texas Tech until he hears about the job at his alma mater.

Texas Tech athletic director Gerald Myers said this week that no one from Ohio State has contacted him about talking to Knight.

He said he believes Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger would call him before pursuing Knight ''because he's a friend and I've known him for quite a long time.''

Asked what he thought about the prospect of Knight being interested in talking to Ohio State, Myers said, ''We'll cross that bridge if it comes.''

Gillen said he thought Knight would be a great choice for the job. ''He's certainly a legend in college coaching,'' Gillen said.

Knight would help bring fans back to Value City Arena following a 14-16 season, but his quick temper and off-court misbehavior could be seen as drawbacks.

Ohio State president Karen Holbrook told The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer on Thursday that she would interview finalists for the job after the search committee picks them.

''I think we all know the profile of a coach that we want is somebody who upholds the integrity, the standards, the NCAA regulations and the good positive reputation for Ohio State,'' Holbrook said.

Another Big Ten coach said the opening shouldn't be hard to fill.

Illinois coach Bruce Weber said the job is one of the best in the conference, if not the nation.

''Ohio State is located in a tremendous basketball state with a large population,'' he said. ''It has a great arena and terrific support from around the state. There is no question it will attract a quality coach.''

O'Brien, who had a 133-88 record with Ohio State and led the Buckeyes to the 1999 Final Four, released a statement Friday saying it was not appropriate for him to comment at this time on his dismissal. He called his firing ''a significant conflict and disagreement between the Ohio State University and me.''

O'Brien said he stands behind ''the manner in which I have run this program.''

O'Brien's lawyer, Jim Zeszutek, did not return a message seeking comment.