Ohio State gets OK to talk with Stallings

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 29, 2004

COLUMBUS - Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger isn't talking about prospective candidates for the men's basketball coaching job - and he's barely talking about the process of hiring a new coach.

Almost three weeks into the search to replace the fired Jim O'Brien, only one candidate is known to have spoken to Geiger about the vacant position: Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings.

Geiger has remained vague on the selection process, the informal committee upon which he is relying for feedback, the timetable for announcing a new coach and who will make the final decision.

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''I have had open discussions with the committee,'' Geiger said through an Ohio State spokesman on Monday. ''The next step is visiting with people. When that's completed, we'll decide what to do and then take it forward to higher university administration for their approval.''

Geiger has not publicly identified anyone on the committee, although former Ohio State player Bill Hosket confirmed he has been asked about candidates. Former players Clark Kellogg and Ron Stokes also are sharing ideas with Geiger, according to published reports. Messages seeking comment were left for Hosket and Kellogg.

Geiger said the committee would include a current player, believed to be junior captain Terence Dials.

The last time Geiger faced a major hire was in January 2001. Sixteen days after John Cooper was fired as football coach, Geiger announced Youngstown State coach Jim Tressel had been hired.

''This process is very similar to when coach Tressel was hired,'' Geiger said.

Yet when Tressel was hired, the search committee was composed of three faculty members, associate athletic director Archie Griffin, the chairman of Ohio State's board of trustees, one former player and two current ones. It is not known if any faculty members or athletic department officials are involved in the committee.

Geiger fired O'Brien on June 8 after O'Brien told him that he had given $6,000 to recruit Aleksandar Radojevic in 1999. The payment came to light in a lawsuit filed by a Columbus woman who said she provided housing and thousands of dollars to former Ohio State player Boban Savovic and did homework for him.

She charged in sworn testimony that she believed O'Brien had knowledge of the payments to Savovic and said she was directed to ask for Savovic's grades to be changed by Ohio State assistant coach Paul Biancardi, now the head coach at Wright State. Biancardi has denied the allegations.

Geiger asked Vanderbilt officials late last week to speak to Stallings, a leading candidate for the Ohio State job when O'Brien was hired in 1997.

''We told Andy Geiger that we were going to keep him,'' Vanderbilt vice chancellor David Williams said Monday. ''We are going to try to make it to where he would want to stay here.''

Stallings, in his fifth year at Vanderbilt, led the Commodores to a 23-10 record and a trip to the NCAA's round of 16 in March. They lost to eventual national champion Connecticut.

Stallings, 85-69 in five years at Vanderbilt, was the head coach at Illinois State in 1997 when Geiger interviewed him about the Ohio State job left open by the firing of Randy Ayers.

Rice athletic director Bobby May told Houston television station KRIV on Monday that Owls coach Willis Wilson will interview Tuesday for the Ohio State job.

Wilson led Rice to a 20-11 record last season and a berth in the NIT - its first postseason appearance since 1993.

''Willis is a great guy and a great coach and would do a great job for Ohio State,'' said May, who gave Geiger permission to interview Wilson.

North Carolina State coach Herb Sendek said Monday that he did not want to talk about rumors linking his name to the Ohio State job.

''It's obviously flattering any time your name comes up,'' Sendek said at a news conference. ''It's also flattering to be the coach at N.C. State.''

Asked if anyone from Ohio State had contacted him about the job, Sendek sidestepped the question.

''There are just some things you just don't have any control over,'' he said. ''Any time a job opens, there's natural speculation that usually points in the direction of somebody has some connect in some way.''

N.C. State athletic director Lee Fowler said that Ohio State had not contacted him for permission to speak with Sendek, the Atlantic Coast Conference's coach of the year after the Wolfpack went 21-10.

''I would only expect to hear from them if he's one of their serious candidates,'' Fowler said.

Geiger sought last Thursday to speak with Rutgers coach Gary Waters, formerly the head coach at Kent State, but was rebuffed by athletic director Bob Mulcahy.

''I'm very content at Rutgers,'' Waters told The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger. ''I haven't given any consideration to any other job.''

There have been published reports that Ohio State has been in touch with Marquette coach Tom Crean, but Crean would not confirm he has been contacted in a statement Saturday and said he is happy at Marquette.