Ohio State introduces Diebler as next head coach


COLUMBUS — Ohio State’s search for its next men’s basketball head coach didn’t take long to complete.

With every win the Buckeyes stacked under interim head coach Jake Diebler following Chris Holtmann’s firing on Feb. 14, it became increasingly possible incoming Athletic Director Ross Bjork’s first coaching search in Columbus may not need to extend outside the Schottenstein Center.

On Saturday, one day after Ohio State fell to Illinois in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals, Bjork made the move official as Diebler was named the program’s 15th head coach. Just two days later, Diebler took the stage on Monday in front of the media, former players, fans, and a large contingent of family members for his introductory press conference on the floor of Value City Arena.

“Growing up, you have dreams,” Diebler said to begin the press conference. “And you never get to fully predict if and when those dreams will come true. I just want to praise God for being able to live out a dream of mine. This is a dream.”

Diebler, who’s been on staff at Ohio State since 2014, expressed many thanks for the people who have helped to achieve a lifelong dream. That list included his wife, Jordyn, father and longtime high school coach, Keith, outgoing Athletic Director Gene Smith and his successor, Bjork, as well as the former players who he said are responsible for the high expectations of the program.

Dibeler also thanked his current players for rallying behind him in a season that was seemingly lost, ultimately winning five of their last six regular season games before earning another win to open the Big Ten Tournament and falling agonizingly close to advancing to the semifinals and possibly securing an NCAA Tournament bid.

“Thank you, ‘Team 125.’ Thank you to our guys for how they believed and stayed connected, how they led through the adversity that we went through,” he said.

From the outstep of his conversations with Bjork about the expectations of the program, it was clear to Diebler that the two were aligned in their thinking.

“We are going to make decisions through the lens of what helps Ohio State basketball win a championship and cut down those nets,” Diebler said. “We are going to serve our roster — our players, our staff, and our program — with all the energy and passion that we could possibly do it. Family is a multi-dimensional thing. What each member does, affects the other. We’ve talked about how big that family is, and we’re all going to be committed and surround ourselves with people who are committed to moving in the same direction and caring and loving on everybody who is a part of that.”

Following Diebler’s opening speech, Bjork addressed those in attendance and shed some light on how the hiring process ultimately led to Diebler’s promotion.

“We laid out a very specific profile about what we envisioned for Ohio State basketball,” Bjork said. “Passion, energy, creating a program identity, a track record of player development, a recruiting machine, especially here in the Midwest and in the state of Ohio, strong leadership skills that can galvanize Buckeye nation, someone who understands but can also capitalize in modern-day college athletics, someone who is born to coach. Jake Diebler fits each one of these characteristics and then some.”

Bjork, referring to himself as a “newcomer” at Ohio State, said he talked with at least 15 former Buckeye players to crosscheck those characteristics with what each individual believes it means to be the head coach at Ohio State and what success looks like for the program.

“The feedback was consistent,” he said. “They wanted leadership, they wanted a fit for Ohio State, and they wanted relatability among a lot of other things. But it was great to hear that they expect excellence … It really validated that Jake is the right guy for this job.”

Bjork went on to say, “It may be easy to say that we just walked right down the hallway (to make a hire), that it’s an easy pick; he’s down the hallway, we can just name him our head coach. But we pressed Jake on what it takes to build championships, what it takes to make changes as the leader of the program. We asked him about modern-day athletics.

“And what’s really neat about this is we have a program that’s ready to excel. We have a program that’s ready to take flight, and with the right kind of adjustments, we know that we can cut down nets and raise those ladders that we all expect. Every time we checked the profile and the values of Ohio State, the beacon was Jake. It just kept pointing to him being the right guy.”

While Diebler’s familiarity with the program, recruiting prowess, and recent success in an interim role are all encouraging as Ohio State looks to revive its men’s basketball program, he must now do it as the face of the program for the foreseeable future. Regardless of how his role will change, though, Diebler remains committed to doing everything with the program’s best interest at the forefront.

“It’s hard to speak on something I haven’t experienced yet,” Diebler said when asked how he believes things may change as a first-time head coach. “But I will say that what drives me is to serve this program as best as I possibly can. That’s not going to change. It’s not going to change once we’re able to win a championship. It’s not going to change when we go through adversity. It’s not going to be different five years from now or however much longer I’m able to serve.

“Why I do it and what motivates me, my foundation is set and that’s my faith and my family. Why I do it — our former players are always going to be here, and that’s motivation to me. Time will change things, certainly, but the motivation behind how we’re going to take this program to where it belongs will not change.”

Diebler will receive a base salary of $2.5 million for a five-year contract that runs through April 30, 2029. His contract is filled with bonuses for both individual and team accomplishments.

Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.

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