Gene Smith did not earn high marks for Ohio State's dismissal of longtime head coach Thad Matta this week. But he was right about one thing: The timing is awful.
"No time is optimal, but obviously this time is not the best,” Smith said during Monday's press conference. “So I need to be sensitive to what I’m dealing with in this window of time. So, I do not have a timeline. I’m going to do my best to search to find the right person that fits The Ohio State University.”
The only problem is that the "right person" might not be interested right now, less than five months before the start of the college basketball season. Big names such as Sean Miller, Chris Mack and Shaka Smart are circulating, but are those realistic? They might not even be realistic if this happened in March, let alone in June.
If Smith is unable to lure a notable coach to Columbus, the Buckeyes could be left with someone far down their list. If they hire someone immediately instead of naming an interim coach for 2017-18, here are five realistic candidates to take over the program.
Current Position: Head Coach, Stony Brook
Jeff Boals was Thad Matta's right-hand man for seven seasons (2009-16) before taking the Stony Brook job in 2016.
The Ohio native was Matta's top recruiter and helped build rosters that made seven NCAA Tournaments, two Elite Eights and one Final Four. It's unknown if Ohio State wishes to get a new face or if they'd be interested in bringing back the popular Boals.
Current Position: Head Coach, Kent State
Rod Senderoff is only 43 years old but has a wealth of experience at six different schools, including two years on Kelvin Sampson's staff at Indiana (2006-08).
Though that might disqualify him immediately for a job at a school that watched Sampson run the Hoosiers into the ground, Senderoff been very good at Kent State. He has won at least 21 games in four of his six years and reached the 2017 NCAA Tournamanent, the first for the Golden Flashes since 2008.
Fair or not, it'd be a tough sell to hire one of Sampson's former assistants, even if he's a up-and-comer bursting with potential.
Current Position: Head Coach, Illinois State
Like Senderoff, Dan Muller is an early-40's head coach with a few solid seasons at a mid-major far off the national radar.
Muller played at Illinois State in the mid-1990's before entering coaching in 2001 as a Vanderbilt assistant, where he remained until 2012. The 41-year-old has won at least 18 games in each of his five seasons, including 28 last season. However, he has just one regular-season conference title, zero conference tourney titles and no NCAA tourney appearances.
Current Position: Assistant Coach, Duke
Jeff Capel is included in the select group of potential Coach K replacements — along with Steve Wojciechowski and Chris Collins and a few others. If the 42-year-old is a realistic option, would he risk it by leaving for a head coaching job?
Capel was once the hottest name in mid-major hoops when won 23 games and delivered an NCAA Tournament at VCU as a 29-year-old in 2004. He jumped to Oklahoma two years later and though he won 53 games between 2007-09 and reached the 2009 Elite Eight, he fizzled quickly and was gone after the 2010-11 season.
Capel has since become Coach K's top assistant following the departures of Wojciechowski and Collins and is rebuilding his head coaching future.
Current Position: Assistant Coach, Kentucky
Another revered recruiter at a blue blood program, Kenny Payne is still new to college basketball, at least relatively speaking.
The 50-year-old former Louisville star and first-round pick of the 76ers in 1989 didn't become a coach until 2004 when he joined Ernie Kent's staff at Oregon. He was scooped up by John Calipari in 2010 and has been one of the game's best recruiters and assistants since.
Though Payne is considered one of the top right-hand men in college basketball, his age has kept him off up-and-coming lists. He might not have head coaching experience or the name recognition Ohio State fans are hoping for, but Kenny Payne would be an extremely intriguing hire.