Jim Schaus likes to move quick. The Ohio athletic director is known for not relying on search firms or consultants to aid him in his coaching searches. He sets strict guidelines for what he's looking for and goes hard after what he wants.
According to a report from The Athens Messenger's Jason Arkley, Schaus is already down to his final four candidates for the job that's been vacant for just two days. According to sources the Schaus is only considering actively sitting head coaches. This means former head coaches and top assistants will not be considered for the job.
Bad news for many Ohio fans who were championing for one of two former Ohio players and assistants, Dustin Ford and Jeff Boals, to get the job.
Who has made the cut so far? According to Arkley's sources the list includes:
Saul Phillips, North Dakota State
Pat Kelsey, Winthrop
Jeff Neubauer, Eastern Kentucky
LeVelle Moton, North Carolina Central
All four are relatively young and hot upstarts in the NCAA coaching ranks. Phillips, Neubauer and Moton all led their teams to the NCAA Tournament this season. All four are at their first stops as head coaches.
Phillips appears to be the most attractive name on this list. his Bison soaked up some national media attention a few weeks back when they knocked off Oklahoma in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. In seven years as NDSU's head coach Phillips has put together a 134-84 mark. A disciple of Bo Ryan, whom he worked under for four seasons as Wisconsin's Director of Basketball Operations (2001-2004), Phillips would be the splashiest hire. However, he's also considered a top prospect for the vacant Tulsa job and could be the priciest of the four.
Winthrop's Kelsey is the least experienced of the bunch, having just wrapped up his second season as the Eagles' head coach, but he's probably got the most impressive pedigree. The former Xavier guard (1996-1998) helped lead the Musketeers to two March Madness appearances in his time on the court. He got his start in college coaching in 2001 at Wake Forest as the Director of Basketball Operations and eventually an assistant coach.
He spent several seasons at Wake Forest as an assistant before moving on to his alma mater to assist Chris Mack where he worked for several years before moving on to Winthrop as the head coach. Kelsey has strong ties to the southern Ohio region, which could be a boost in recruiting.
EKU's Neaubauer has been at his current school the longest, having just concluded his ninth season as the Colonels head coach. He lead EKU to the NCAA Tournament this season, falling to No. 2 seed Kansas in the second round. He's posted a career 167-122 mark as a head coach in the Ohio Valley Conference, and has ties to the region which would give him a head start in recruiting. He worked as the top assistant under John Beilein at WVU and Richmond, for a total of nine seasons and at the time of his hiring at EKU was considered one fo the hottest young assistants in the game.
Moton also lead his team to the NCAA Tournament this season, falling to 3-seed Iowa State in the second round, in a 28-6 season. Also considered a candidate for the open positions at FAU and Ohio rival Marshall, Moton is just 39 years of age and has proven he can succeed in tough areas. North Carolina is arguably the most basketball dense state, with UNC and Duke typically swooping up the state's top recruits. Moton may be the least known of the four, but considering the attention he's garnering from other schools, he's obviously considered one of the better young coaches in basketball.
Schaus will be in Dallas for the Final Four, where he will likely be conducting interviews with some, if not all, of these candidates. With how quick Schaus has moved up to this point, expect a decision on the job by the middle of next week.
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