COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Jim O’Brien, who coached Boston College for 11 years, was hired Wednesday to take over a struggling Ohio State men’s basketball team after two other candidates rejected the job.
O’Brien signed a five-year contract and succeeds Randy Ayers, who was fired March 10. He inherits a team that finished 10-17 the last two years and was ninth in the Big Ten this past season.
The deal includes a base salary of $150,000 a year. The Boston Herald reported the total package, which, including outside endorsements and radio-TV contracts, is believed to be worth about $650,000 a year.
O’Brien visited the campus Monday after Clemson’s Rick Barnes and Georgia’s Tubby Smith decided to stay where they are. Athletic director Andy Geiger also interviewed Illinois State coach Kevin Stallings on Tuesday.
“I think Jim has coached at a high level in a conference (the Big East) I think is comparable to the Big Ten,” Geiger said.
He said O’Brien convinced him he really wanted to come to Ohio State and was not dissatisfied with Boston College.
“It was really important to me that we not be romance on the rebound,” Geiger said. “He was ready for change and this is a change he feels very, very good about.”
Geiger also said at his news conference that Stanford assistant Amy Tucker said she was not interested in replacing fired women’s coach Nancy Darsch.
Tucker was believed to be the leading candidate. Ohio State also has interviewed Detroit-Mercy’s Nikita Lowry and San Diego State’s Beth Burns.
O’Brien, who is to have a news conference in Columbus on Thursday, met with his former players briefly in Boston on Wednesday to tell them he was leaving.
Two of Ohio State’s three freshman recruits — forward Jon Sanderson of Lexington High School and guard Michael Redd of Columbus West — said O’Brien’s hiring would have no effect on their commitments to the school. Recruit Shamar Herron, a center from Detroit Pershing, declined comment.
O’Brien is 168-166 at BC and 235-217 in 15 seasons of college coaching. The Eagles are 41-20 in the last two seasons and have won 17 or more games in four of the last five years. They won the Big East regular-season and tournament titles this year.
Ayers, the national coach of the year in 1991, when his team won the first of two Big Ten championships, was fired a day after the Buckeyes finished this season. He was 124-108 in his eight years with the school.
O’Brien must rebuild a team that has had four straight losing seasons, a first in school history.
“I think we want to get a meeting as soon as possible,” guard Damon Stringer said. “As soon as we bridge a relationship, the faster we can rise as a team.”