Ohio State Basketball: Eight Possible Head Coach Candidates Headlined by Lamont Paris, Greg McDermott

Greg McDermott

Ohio State Basketball is searching for a new head coach for the first time in seven seasons as Chris Holtmann was fired last week. 

Many candidates have been brought up as possible replacements while Jake Diebler fulfills his duties as the interim head coach. Let us go over some of the possible coaches new Ohio State Athletic Director Ross Bjork can hire to get the program back on track.

Lamont Paris | South Carolina Head Coach

Paris, a Findlay native and Wooster alum, has been one of the most brought-up names to land the Buckeye job. He played four seasons at Wooster College and then transitioned to coaching by taking an assistant job at Wooster. Paris was hired as an assistant at Division Two DePauw for the 1999-2000 season where he helped them to a 17-8 record.

He then took a job with IUP (Indiana University Pennsylvania) from the 2001 season to the 2004 season. Paris then got an opportunity to be an assistant at Akron from 2005-2010 before he was hired onto Bo Ryan’s staff at Wisconsin and was retained by now-head coach Greg Gard after Ryan retired in 2015.

In 2017, he was hired as Chattanooga’s head coach where he got off to a shaky start. The Mocs finished 22-43 in his first two seasons with little growth being seen. In the 2019-2020 season, Paris started to succeed at Chattanooga, he finished 20-13 with a 10-8 record in the SOCON.

Fast forward to 2021-2022, he led the Mocs to a 27-8 record and an NCAA Tournament appearance after a David Jean-Baptiste logo-3-pointer to clinch a SOCON title. In the tournament, they took 4-seed Illinois to their breaking point but were unable to pull off the upset. That offseason he was hired by South Carolina to take over a program that was in shambles after appearing in a final four years earlier. His first season was one to remember as he was able to convince five-star and generational talent GG Jackson to reclassify and commit to the Gamecocks over North Carolina.

The Gamecocks finished 11-21 and third to last in the SEC. This season Paris has shown how much South Carolina developed over the offseason, as former Buckeye Meechie Johnson has had a career season, shooting a little over 40% from the field and 15 points per game. The Gamecocks are currently 21-5 and sit in the top three of the SEC rankings.

Greg McDermott | Creighton Head Coach

McDermott is one of the best coaches in the country and has been a proven winner in today’s game. He was a five-year player at Northern Iowa before becoming an assistant coach at North Dakota from 1989-1994. McDermott was then hired by Wayne State where he led them to four winning seasons and an NSIC tournament victory, as well as leading the Wildcats to a Division Two Sweet 16 appearance in the 1999-2000 season.

He then had a one-year stint as head coach at North Dakota State before taking a job at his alma mater, Northern Iowa, in 2001. McDermott led them to three consecutive NCAA tournament appearances and one MVC tournament championship. He took a job at Iowa State but did not have much success other than upsetting number five Kansas State. This is how he ended up at Creighton where he signed a ten-year deal with the Blue Jays and the rest is history.

In his first season, he led the Blue Jays to a CBI championship game but was unable to win the title. He has made eight NCAA tournaments at Creighton and has had appearances in the Elite Eight and Sweet 16 multiple times. McDermott was reported as the runner-up for the Ohio State job seven years ago, so he could have an interest in the Buckeye job this time around. He isn’t a big risk to take because he has had success everywhere he has been in his career and has taken Creighton from being in the middle of the pack to being one of the best teams in the country every year.

Note: Creighton just defeated No. 1 UConn at home by double digits for the program’s first win over a top-ranked team. 

Sean Miller | Xavier Head Coach

Miller has spent most of his career in the Midwest. He was the starting Point Guard for the Pittsburgh Panthers during his playing career before beginning his career in coaching shortly after he graduated. Miller joined the Wisconsin staff as a graduate assistant in 1992 for one season before being hired by Herb Sendek at Miami Ohio to become an assistant coach for the RedHawks from 1993-1995. He returned to Pittsburgh, this time as an assistant for the 95-96 season. Miller followed Sendek to NC State and helped the Wolfpack go to four tournament appearances and an NIT semifinal appearance.

Later, he joined Ohio State great Thad Matta’s coaching staff at Xavier and would eventually take over for Matta as he went to Ohio State. Miller started his first stint at Xavier being successful early as he led the Musketeers to four NCAA Tournament appearances in the five seasons, he was the head coach. They made it past the first round three of the four years and made an elite eight appearance in his time. He got the opportunity of a lifetime to become the head coach at Arizona and once again he saw success early.

In his second season with the Wildcats, he led them to an Elite Eight appearance and went on to appear in seven tournaments over his twelve years in Tucson. Miller was fired from Arizona in 2020 due to missing the tournament for three straight seasons, as well as the scandal of paying DeAndre Ayton $100,000 to go to Arizona. He got another chance to be a head coach and a second stint at Xavier where last season he led the Musketeers to a Sweet 16 appearance.

Miller would bring experience and a winning culture to Ohio State, but his past does make it a questionable hire to some fans. He would bring a new culture and would have a good chance to take the Buckeyes back to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012.

Dusty May | Florida Atlantic Head Coach

May has had a career-changing last two seasons, he took Florida Atlantic to the Final Four in his first tournament appearance. He started his career as a student manager for Indiana which then turned into after graduating a video coordinator job with Indiana and then USC. He has had an interesting coaching career up to this point where he has had assistant coaching stints with Eastern Michigan, UAB, Murray State, Louisiana Tech, and Florida.

Dusty was a part of Kerry Rupps’ staff at Louisiana Tech and was retained by Mike White when he took over in 2011. May followed White to Florida where he was with the Gators until 2018, when he was hired at Florida Atlantic. He has finished above .500 every season with the Owls with two postseason appearances (CBI and CIT).

Hiring May would be like buying a new electronic that everyone is talking about but may lose value after a few years. He has not had the greatest career as a coach, but the past two seasons have proven he can be one of the best coaches in the country. May just needs the right program with a good NIL department.

Other Possible Candidates

TJ Otzelberger | Iowa State Head Coach

Otzelberger has brought Iowa State from one of the bottom dwellers in the Big 12 to one of the best teams in the country in a short amount of time. He would be a home run hire for the Buckeyes, but the chances he leaves Iowa State at this time are slim to none.

Jerome Tang | Kansas State Head Coach

Tang coming off an Elite Eight appearance in his first season as a head coach after spending fourteen seasons as an assistant coach and five seasons as an associate head coach at Baylor under Scott Drew. There is a chance Ohio State could be interested in Tang, but it is unsure if Tang would leave Kansas State or if he would be the right fit for the Buckeyes.

Pat Kelsey | Charleston Head Coach

Kelsey is a shot-in-the-dark candidate that Ross Bjork could hire. Kelsey is coming off a historic season at Charleston which capped off with them losing to National Championship runners-up San Diego State in the first round. He has had success at both Charleston and Winthrop, he won three Big South titles at Winthrop, and one CAA title at Charleston. Kelsey is a Cincinnati native so he could be in play to return to the Buckeye State if Ohio State feels it is the right move for the future.

Mick Cronin | UCLA Head Coach

The Current UCLA head coach is familiar with the Ohio pipeline when he was the head coach for Cincinnati for thirteen seasons. He has been vocal about his unhappiness with the NIL support at UCLA so it would not be a shock if he leaves for another job this offseason. Ohio State could be a candidate because of the NIL backing Ross Bjork brings in and it certainly would be something that Cronin would be happy with. He is an Ohio native so the move would be a homecoming to the Cronin family.