Ohio State targeting Jake Diebler as men’s basketball coach, per source: Why hire him for the full-time role?

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By Alex Andrejev, Cameron Teague Robinson and Nicole Auerbach

Ohio State is targeting Jake Diebler for the full-time men’s basketball coaching job, according to a source briefed on the hiring process.

Diebler served as the team’s associate head coach before stepping into the interim head coaching role on Feb. 14 when Ohio State fired Chris Holtmann, who has since been hired by DePaul.

Diebler, 37, is an Ohio native who played at Valparaiso University in Indiana. He served on Valparaiso’s staff for four years before joining Ohio State as a video coordinator from 2014-16. In 2019, he returned to Ohio State as an assistant coach after a three-year stint at Vanderbilt in the same role.

Under Holtmann, who was fired in the middle of his seventh season, the Buckeyes appeared in the NCAA Tournament in 2018, 2019, 2021 and 2022 (and would have in 2020), but the team was 30-30 over his final 60 games with a 9-25 Big Ten record.

The Buckeyes (20-13 overall, 9-11 in the Big Ten) fell to Illinois 77-74 in the Big Ten Tournament on Friday.

Why hire Diebler?

Though Ohio State is unlikely to make the NCAA Tournament, its season was saved by athletic director Gene Smith’s decision to fire Holtmann and name Diebler the interim.

He won six of his eight games as head coach, including a home win over No. 2 Purdue in his first game. The Buckeyes also ended a 16-game road losing streak, which stretched back to Jan. 1, 2023, with a 60-57 win over Michigan State in just Diebler’s third game.

It became evident Diebler needed to be a candidate in the head coaching search after leading the Buckeyes on a four-game winning streak to end the regular season. But in the Big Ten Tournament, Ohio State beat Iowa and lost by three points to Illinois. A win against Illinois would’ve put the Buckeyes squarely on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament.

Ohio State finished the season 20-13 and 9-11 in conference play with Diebler taking complete credit for six of those wins in just one month.

Soon-to-be athletic director Ross Bjork ran the coaching search and whether it works out or not, deserves credit for not being tempted with a flashy or big-name hire. But going with the one that made the most sense, and that was Diebler, the guy who saved Ohio State’s season. — Cameron Teague Robinson, Ohio State beat writer

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(Photo: David Berding / Getty Images)

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