Ohio made it official Wednesday morning, parting ways with coach Saul Phillips after five seasons. Phillips was 81-77 overall and 40-50 in Mid-American Conference play during his time at Ohio.
A national search for Phillips’ replacement will begin immediately, per a release made by the athletic department on Wednesday.
Now, the question is: Who will be the next head coach at Ohio? Athletic director Jim Schaus has swung and missed at a couple hires, including Phillips. The next hire Schaus makes will arguably be his most important.
The Post looks at four candidates who make sense for the future of the Ohio basketball program:
Dustin Ford — Akron associate head coach
Ford is an alum, making him an obvious candidate. He was a four-year starter at Ohio from 1998-2001. His first college coaching job was at Western Carolina under former Ohio coach Larry Hunter. From there, he took a job on John Groce’s bench at Ohio, where he and Groce piloted the Bobcats to an impressive stretch that included NCAA Tournament berths and a Sweet 16 appearance.
Ford has been Groce’s top assistant for years, and he knows what success looks like at Ohio. But he’s fiercely loyal to Groce, and having to face his mentor twice each year might not be appetizing. Ohio athletic director Jim Schaus will do his due diligence in the coaching search. Could Ford be the first call he makes?
Jeff Boals — Stony Brook head coach
Boals is another Ohio alum, so including his name on the list was too easy. He was a two-time captain at Ohio, and he made the NCAA Tournament with the Bobcats in 1994. Boals knows what it’s like to have success at Ohio, too, and his MAC roots are deep.
Boals spent time at Robert Morris, Marshall and Akron before taking a job as Thad Matta’s assistant at Ohio State, where he served as an assistant for seven years before taking the Stony Brook job.
At Stony Brook, Boals has excelled. He led the Seawolves to a 24-win season this season and has a 55-40 overall head coaching record. The problem: he’s heating up at Stony Brook. Would he leave now?
Ryan Pedon — Ohio State assistant coach
Pedon was an assistant under former Ohio coach John Groce at Illinois, then became an assistant at Butler and Ohio State under Chris Holtmann, where he is an assistant.
The last time Ohio hired an Ohio State assistant, it had luck. John Groce was successful at Ohio. Could the Bobcats go that route again with Pedon? He has MAC roots from his time as a graduate assistant and assistant at Miami, director of basketball operations at Kent State and assistant at Toledo.
John Brannen — Northern Kentucky head coach
Brannen has had a lot of success at NKU; he’s made the NCAA Tournament twice in the last three years, including this season. He also led the Norse to the NIT last season.
Brannen could be a long-shot candidate. Some think he wouldn’t leave NKU for Ohio because it might be viewed as a lateral move, but money talks. He currently makes $300,000 per year at NKU. Saul Phillips made over $500,000. Could the money draw Brannen to Athens?