Ohio State's poorly timed search continues after Greg McDermott says no

Greg McDermott turned down the chance to become Ohio State’s next coach. (AP)
Greg McDermott turned down the chance to become Ohio State’s next coach. (AP)

An athletic department flush with cash. A fertile recruiting base rife with top prospects.  Strong in-state and national brand recognition. A football-first fan base with lower expectations than nearby hoops hotbeds.

Ohio State has many qualities that should be attractive to college basketball’s top coaches, which is why it’s inexcusable that athletic director Gene Smith is having such a difficult time finding a quality successor to Thad Matta.

Creighton’s Greg McDermott became the latest coach to pass on the Ohio State job when he sent out a tweet Thursday afternoon reaffirming his desire to remain in Omaha. ESPN.com reported late Wednesday night that Smith had offered the job to McDermott during a meeting that evening.

That Ohio State even offered the job to McDermott at all is a sign that its search isn’t going as planned. McDermott has made the NCAA tournament four times in seven years at Creighton, won twice as many games as he has lost and successfully transitioned the program from the Valley to the Big East, yet it’s hard not to look at his resume and wonder if this was the best the Buckeyes could do.

McDermott has never led a team to the Sweet 16 in 16 seasons as a Division I head coach at Northern Iowa, Iowa State and Creighton. The only three seasons in which his teams did not lose double-digit games all came when his son Doug was in school.

While McDermott has spent his entire coaching career in the Midwest, he hasn’t established much of a recruiting presence in Ohio or neighboring Indiana or Michigan. His group of 2017 recruits is the first top 25 class of his coaching career.

You’d think that would be important to Smith considering the Buckeyes’ recent recruiting woes appeared to be the impetus for his oddly timed decision to fire Matta. Smith said he felt he could wait no longer to make a change after Matta missed on a handful of high-profile recruits and grad transfers this spring on the heels of two straight seasons without reaching the NCAA tournament.

“We weren’t winning the battles in recruiting that I thought we might have a chance to win,” Smith said. “As we started talking about that on Friday, the flow of the conversation brought us to the reality. ‘Thad, maybe it is time to make a leadership change.’”

McDermott is the third candidate to publicly pass on the Ohio State job, joining Xavier’s Chris Mack and Chicago Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg. Among those that also reportedly do not have interest are Arizona’s Sean Miller and Oklahoma City Thunder coach Billy Donovan.

Smith’s inability to find a taker for the job reflects Ohio State’s awful timing firing its coach in June instead of immediately after the season. Potential target Archie Miller was already off the market, while other candidates have assembled rosters too strong for next season to consider abruptly bolting now.

It’s reasonable for Smith to have shot for the stars by reaching out to high-profile candidates, but it’s inexplicable that he didn’t have a backup plan ready to go in the likelihood that they said no. Who in their right mind would fire the most accomplished basketball coach in school history three months into the offseason without having a successor in mind?

The good news for Ohio State is that an ill-conceived search doesn’t necessarily mean a bad hire. Oregon endured a meandering month-long search in 2011 before somehow stumbling into some good fortune when Dana Altman accepted the job.

The bad news for Ohio State is that Smith cannot afford to let this search draw out very long. He must have a head coach and a staff in place before the all-important July evaluation period begins next month.

The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Golden State Warriors assistant Mike Brown is on Ohio State’s radar but is not interested in coaching college basketball at this time. Virginia Tech’s Buzz Williams and Butler’s Chris Holtmann also remain possibilities.

Each of those candidates appear to be a better fit than McDermott, so perhaps Ohio State dodged a bullet Thursday.

Either way, it’s hard to have confidence in a search that is making one of college basketball’s 15 best jobs appear unappealing. More from Yahoo Sports:

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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