Jake Diebler Ross Bjork
Basketball

Jake Diebler, Ross Bjork Discuss Promotion, Path Forward For Buckeye Basketball

COLUMBUS — Ohio State incoming director of athletics Ross Bjork introduced new men’s basketball coach Jake Diebler to media and the open public on the floor of Value City Arena on Monday. Bjork discussed why Diebler made the most sense for the Buckeyes, and Diebler discussed what this opportunity means to him and his family. Bjork and Diebler also participated in a press conference. The highlights of everything that was said can be found below.

Current athletics director Gene Smith introduced Ross Bjork, but first began by thanking Jake Diebler and the Buckeyes for the way they have played at the end of the season. He also thanked the former players for showing up today as well.

Smith also complimented Bjork on the thorough search and due diligence of how he took his time and allowed this process to work.

Jake Diebler

  • “Growing up, you have dreams, and you never fully get to predict if and when those dreams will come true. So I just want to praise God for being able to live out a dream of mine. This is a dream.”
  • Family is so important to him and his wife Jordyn. That family has expanded beyond their two families. It involves people he’s played with, his dad’s players, and well beyond. Part of that family now is Ross Bjork and Ted Carter. To Gene Smith: “Thank you for choosing me to fill in and to empower me to be myself.”
  • Diebler thanks this year’s team for sticking together through the adversity. He also thanked the staff at the Schott for everything they do.
  • To the past players seated on the floor, Diebler said he will honor the history of this program and get it to where it belongs. He then asked them to stand up and be applauded.
  • “This program has a rich tradition and it’s because of these guys and the guys before them.” “It’s all the way back to the beginning.” He has received so much support over the past month from all of the past players. “This is just the beginning of us growing and building that relationship because this is your program.”
  • When Bjork talked about his expectations for this program it became clear that they were in alignment. It’s about winning championships. “We are going to serve our roster with all of the energy and passion that we could possibly do it.”
  • “Ohio State is a special place. I’ve seen first-hand what it can do to those who are connected to it.” He wasn’t good enough to play here but his brother Jon was and he has seen the impact it has had on him and the Diebler family.
  • “Ohio State is the best of the best and we are going to do everything we can to push our program to align with that.”
  • They need to finish this season well first and then they will talk about more significant changes that didn’t make sense before now.
  • What will the challenges be like leading this program year after year as opposed to just eight games? “It’s hard to speak on something that I haven’t experienced yet.” What won’t change is his drive to serve this program. That won’t change when they win a championship or go through adversity.
  • “I got into coaching because the most influential people in my life were coaches.” He wanted to have that same impact on people. “I didn’t go to college to be a coach.” He wanted to own a business, but coaches are the ones who changed his life. “I still believe in the influence that coaches can have on young men.”
  • What did your dad mean in this journey and what does it mean to represent Northwest Ohio? “I take a great deal of pride in being from Northwest Ohio.” I’m from the 419. The record books are filled with people from Northwest Ohio. “I could go on all day about that.” His dad has been very influential on his life. The passion he coached with has stuck with him. Having him around this last month has been critical for him.
  • Was there a moment that you knew coaching was going to be the thing? He didn’t have a very good freshman season and he wanted to transfer. He called his dad and his dad told him to suck it up, basically. That sparked more hard work and it led to him being a captain as a sophomore. He saw the impact that his dad and Valpo coach Homer Drew had on him.
  • His greatest memory in basketball was on the Value City Arena court winning a state championship with his dad as his coach and his brother Jon on the team. “I wish every kid could experience that.”
  • When you are from Ohio and you put on the Ohio State jersey, you get a couple extra 2-3%. It unlocks a little extra ability.
  • On building a roster through recruiting and the portal, you have to use both. It varies from year to year but you have to do what is best for each team. Recruiting is always going to be important and it’s possible to do at a high level at Ohio State.
  • On the roster retention of this team: These players made it clear that they love Ohio State and you saw that with the way they have played and responded to adversity. Those conversations have started taking place and will continue after the season.

Ross Bjork

  • “I’ve been on the ground 16 days.” Bjork began with an “O-H.” “This is a great day to be a Buckeye.”
  • “Nothing like hitting the ground running as the incoming athletic director.” There was no honeymoon phase. Gene Smith called him in mid-February to tell him there was going to be a change at head coach of the basketball team. He then began watching a lot of college basketball.
  • “I really want to give thanks to Gene with his support and advice in this search.” Smith navigated all of the procedural things and helped with the cultures and values of the university. “Let’s give Gene another round of applause.”
  • “The most important people are the players.” He commends them for their toughness and togetherness.
  • President Ted Carter is fired up about this hire. “He knows the importance of getting this hire right.”
  • “We had a very thorough and comprehensive search.”
  • “We laid out a very specific profile.” They wanted passion, energy, a recruiting machine, a track record of development, strong leadership skills, someone who understands modern-day athletics. Jake Diebler fits each of these categories and then some. Bjork had to cross check these items with at least 15 former players about this hire. As a new person he wanted that insight. The feedback was consistent: they wanted leadership, a fit for Ohio State, and relatability. But they all expect excellence. “It really validated that Jake is the right guy.”
  • It may be easy to say that this was an easy pick, but they pressed Diebler on what it takes to win championships and be a leader and make necessary changes in today’s sports landscape. They have the ability here to cut down nets. Every factor they looked for, things kept pointing back to Diebler.
  • When they went to Diebler’s house on Saturday night, he asked Jake and his wife if they were ready to be the first family of Ohio State basketball. They said yes. “This is a family and that’s what it means to be a Buckeye.” “This is a calling for Jake Diebler.” He’s had to work for everything he’s achieved.
  • On the lack of head coaching experience: “Either you have the wherewithal or you don’t.” From watching those eight games with him as head coach, he saw that ability. “We just thought, ‘Look, if we know where we’re going, let’s just pull the trigger.'”
  • Diebler’s age is an advantage. He was the lead recruiter on most of the guys on this roster. He is already recruiting the high school players who are considering Ohio State.
  • Diebler is over-prepared because he’s been preparing for this day. Bjork was 37 when he became an AD, which is the same age Diebler is now.
  • What is the standard? “I think we should consistently be in the conversation for Big Ten Championships.” If you do that, then everything else is possible. “We have a blue-blood type program. Now we need to be consistent in maximizing those ingredients.”
  • He liked the energy he saw against Purdue from Diebler. You saw there was more freedom of play. A more enjoyable style of play. The players want that. He saw the environment of that game and what this program was capable of.
  • This wasn’t just about the last five weeks. This is about a long-term vision. Diebler never operated in a manner that was concerned about the job, it was always about the team.
  • When did it hit you that this was the decision? Weeks ago they met and he left that meeting thinking “This guy could do the job.” Then he did more research and everything kept coming back to Diebler. “You kinda know it when you see it.”
  • It was necessary to have some kind of clarity going into this week because of the transfer portal and jobs opening, so if they felt like Diebler was the guy, then “let’s go.” “And tomorrow night we tip off at 7:00 pm under his leadership. Permanently.”
  • What is the “it factor” here? It was the moment he had with the Dieblers over the weekend. It’s about family values, faith, togetherness. If you have those things in your personal life, you’ll have them in your professional life. There’s no pretense with Jake Diebler and there isn’t at Ohio State either.
  • Where do you want to see him grow? He’s done it for eight games, but now Bjork’s job will be to help him handle being the head coach. “That’s really the growth that all of us go through as leaders.”
  • Does it make it easier to hire from within when you have NIL backing? “You always do what’s best for the institution.” You go with the best information at the time you have it. “Jake Diebler’s the right guy. No matter if we hired from within, from down the hallway, or from somewhere else.”
  • How much did it matter that Jake Diebler isn’t starting from scratch at Ohio State? He matched all of the characteristics that they were looking for, plus you have the added bonus that he had a head start on his relationships in the recruiting world. But that was just the bonus. That wasn’t a deciding factor.

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