By Danny Medlock (@DannyMedlock) and Steve Uhlmann (@suhlmann12)
Due to the success of the Ohio basketball program, John Groce became an in-demand commodity. The University of Illinois made him an offer he could not refuse, and Ohio was in need of a new coach. Athletic Director Jim Schaus took just 4 days to offer the job to Jim Christian. Our two new Sports Editors voice their differing opinions on the topic.
For (Steve Uhlmann)
When word was received that Ohio was going to go with Jim Christian as the replacement for John Groce, I was confused.
But once the initial shock of this hire that came out of nowhere subsided, it is evident that Ohio didn’t just make a slam dunk with this move, they threw it down harder than Reggie Keely.
Sure, you can point to Christian’s sub-par 56-73 record at TCU, but keep in mind that the three top sports at that school are football, spring football, and intramural football.
Go back to 2002-2003 when Christian took over the Kent State Golden Flashes, the similarities to the current state of Ohio are many.
Kent State saw their coach (current USF front man Stan Heath) quickly whisked away after a run to the Elite 8 that came out of nowhere. Christian inherited a team that returned much of their talent.
Christian didn’t miss a beat, posting six straight 20-win seasons and two NCAA tournament berths.
Ohio knew they didn’t have to get a coach without experience, and were able to pick up a man with the best conference winning percentage in MAC history (76-28, .716 percentage).
A few critics have pointed out how he failed to win a post-season game while at Kent State, but the reality is those coaches are extremely rare.
In the past 25 years, only seven MAC coaches have led teams to at least one victory in the NCAA Tournament including former Bobcat coach John Groce.
When he was formally introduced as the new Ohio men’s head coach, Christian mentioned how his wife, an OU grad, would join in the famous “Winning Team, Losing Team” chant when Christian found himself on the losing side of games against the Bobcats.
He’ll hear it plenty next season, however he will be on the right side of it.
Against (Danny Medlock)
When CBS Sports reported that a marriage between Jim Christian and Ohio University was imminent I was not alone in thinking the Bobcats had made a rash decision.
Point guard, D.J. Cooper used Twitter for weeks to lobby for assistant coach Dustin Ford to become the next new head coach. Once Christian was named Cooper retweeted this:
How about a little loyalty to a guy that has done more for this institution’s athletic program than any player in it’s history? Or how about loyalty to Walter Offut – a student-athlete on his third team who destroyed Harrison Barnes’ draft stock by displaying more heart than any other player in this year’s NCAA tournament? How about at least letting them know what your plans are?
Dustin Ford is unproven, and maybe it would be a foolish decision to entrust a coach with such minimal experience at a time where you have the opportunity to become an elite mid-major. What I question is if the man they hired will be able to deliver the intended splash.
Ohio University’s newest and highest paid employee is now a man whose TCU squad was only above .500 once in his tenure. A man who already left the MAC one time failed and is now back. A man who, in large part, left TCU because of their impending move (and as a result likely slaughter) to the Big 12. Is Ohio truly a place he sees himself at for the next 10 years? Or is it merely an opportunity to parlay the roster already intact at Ohio into a bigger job?
Lastly, hiring Christian before the season was over was a highly questionable decision. Candidate, and former Ohio point guard Jeff Boals was still in New Orleans preparing for Ohio State’s game vs. Kansas. Did AD Jim Schaus really give this process the time it needed to interview all possible candidates?
This hiring should have made a statement and not raised this many questions. This is not to say Jim Christian will not do well here – he has shown an ability to thrive in the MAC – just that I’m unconvinced.