Jake Diebler
Basketball

Jake Diebler Worth The Gamble For The Buckeyes

Jake Diebler is now the full-fledged, full-time head coach of the Ohio State men’s basketball program, and it is a promotion with plenty of risks.

But if you’ve paid attention over the past 125 years, risks are part of any hire for the Buckeye basketball program.

There is one national title in the history of this program, so let’s keep that in mind. This isn’t Kansas. This isn’t Kentucky. There are times when it can come close, however.

But it takes the right coach.

Ohio State hasn’t hired a head coach that wasn’t eventually fired since Gary Williams in 1986, and he only lasted three seasons before leaving for his alma mater Maryland.

Oh, and OSU hired Williams after a 13-15 season the year before at Boston College. Imagine the outcry right now if Ohio State hired a coach coming off of a sub-.500 season.

At least Diebler was six games over .500 this year.

Thad Matta is the winningest coach in Ohio State history. He may be the only truly elite coach in OSU history. Sure, Fred Taylor won a national title in 1960, but he also had five NBA players in his lineup — including two Hall of Famers.

Those Hall of Famers weren’t enough to win it in 1961 or 1962 though.

The Buckeyes have been close at times. Chris Holtmann had his 2019-2020 team ranked as high as No. 2 in the AP poll. But it was the first time in eight years they had been ranked that high. Thad Matta took his 2006-2007 team to the national title game. They were in the NIT one year later.

Jake Diebler — who learned under both of those coaches — has 10 games of head-coaching experience — two while Holtmann was out with an illness, and the past eight games since Holtmann’s firing a month ago.

Since Diebler took over, the Buckeyes have looked like a different team, playing faster, utilizing a deeper bench, and operating at a higher level at the end of games than they have in a couple of years.

They have looked calm at the end of games. They have reflected their head coach.

Ohio State was 14-11 overall and 4-10 in conference play when Holtmann was fired. The Buckeyes are currently 20-13 overall and finished 9-11 against Big Ten foes in the regular season. There is now a postseason opportunity available for Ohio State, which was not likely to be the case under Holtmann.

By all appearances, Jake Diebler has gotten the most out of this team down the stretch, and if not for some questionable calls in the Big Ten Tournament against Illinois on Friday, he would have gotten even more out of them.

That clearly meant something to incoming OSU athletic director Ross Bjork.

Ohio State basketball has never been able to hire a proven commodity from a national power. Or even a regional power. There’s always going to be risk involved because it’s always going to be a step up for whoever is taking the job.

More than any other candidate for this job, Jake Diebler understands what it is like to be the head coach at Ohio State. He has experience recruiting here. He has experience operating here. Diebler has connections, relationships, results, and he kept himself and his team together during a serious bout of adversity.

He is the kind of guy you’d hope the next head coach would be able to keep.

So if you want him around, why not keep him around?

This was Ohio State cutting out the middle man. Jumping to the back of the book. Skipping ahead to the good part.

If Ohio State had gone with a mid-level coach, they were much more likely to land another Holtmann than another Matta. So if insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, is hiring Jake Diebler the sanest thing that Ohio State could have done?

They were choosing between unproven mid-level coaches who have had one or two good years who they don’t know, or somebody who is unproven but they do know and they like what they’ve seen. Neither is a great scenario, and both come with not quite enough information.

This may pan out. It may not. That’s the nature of the business.

Ohio State was not going to land a proven head coach from a top-level program, so if this isn’t a home run, you just go and hire the same type of mid-level coach you were going to hire anyway, because those guys are around all the time.

Jake Diebler may not be.

Mid-level coaches grow on trees.

This was an opportunity for Ohio State to hire a coach who might actually grow roots for a change.

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