Geiger hits the road to talk to candidates

Updated: June 29, 2004, 12:37 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger will meet with Rice coach Willis Wilson at an undisclosed location, sources told ESPN.com's Andy Katz on Monday.

The meeting won't take place in Columbus, Ohio, or Houston, Texas, according to sources.

Search committee under wraps
Andy Geiger has remained vague about his process for selecting Ohio State's next basketball coach, the informal committee upon which he is relying for feedback, the timetable for announcing a new coach and who will make the final decision.

"I have had open discussions with the committee," Geiger said Monday. "The next step is visiting with people. When that's completed, we'll decide what to do and then take it forward to higher university administration for their approval."

A source close to the negotiations told ESPN.com that such secrecy stems from Ohio State's desire to limit the number of people talking to the press about the search.

Geiger has not publicly identified anyone on the committee, although former Ohio State player Bill Hosket confirmed he has been asked about candidates. Former players Clark Kellogg and Ron Stokes also are sharing ideas with Geiger, according to published reports.

Geiger said the committee would include a current player, believed to be junior captain Terence Dials.

The last time Geiger faced a major hire was in January 2001. Sixteen days after John Cooper was fired as football coach, Geiger announced Youngstown State coach Jim Tressel had been hired.

"This process is very similar to when coach Tressel was hired," Geiger said.

Yet when Tressel was hired, the search committee was composed of three faculty members, associate athletic director Archie Griffin, the chairman of Ohio State's board of trustees, one former player and two current ones.

It is not known if any faculty members or athletic department officials are involved in the current committee.

Information from AP was used in this report.

Rice athletic director Bobby May told ESPN.com Monday night that he gave Geiger permission to talk to Wilson after Geiger called late last week. May said he believed the two were meeting Tuesday, which was confirmed by multiple sources.

"We've always known we've had a high caliber coach in Willis," May said. "He's a great coach and a quality person and we'd hate to lose him. But in this business that's always a possibility."

A source close to Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings told ESPN.com Monday night that a meeting with Stallings and Geiger was expected probably on Wednesday, again at an undisclosed location.

Wilson is considered one of the most respected coaches in college basketball, serving as the chair of the rules committee the past season after a four-year run on the committee. He's also on the board of directors with the National Association of Basketball Coaches.

Wilson (169-175 in 12 seasons at Rice) has one of the hardest jobs in Division I, trying to attract top basketball talent to one of the most stringent academic schools. He hasn't led the Owls to the NCAA Tournament during his tenure but has been competitive in the WAC.

Rice went 20-11, 12-6 last season in the WAC and reached the NIT for only the fourth time in its history and the first since 1993, a team also coached by Wilson. The season started with the Owls winning the Top of the World Classic in Fairbanks, Alaska. The 12 wins were the most for the Owls in the WAC since the 1996-97 season.

The 20 wins were the highest since the '92 season. The 41 wins in two seasons was the second highest total in school history, surpassed by a combined 43 in 1940 and '41.

Wilson, who graduated after playing at Rice in 1982, was an assistant at Rice for five seasons (1988-91) before leaving to go to Stanford as an assistant for one season in 1991-92. He arrived at Stanford as Geiger was leaving as athletic director. Wilson spent one season at Stanford before becoming the head coach at Rice in '92.

Wilson was interviewed for the Illinois job last year before AD Ron Guenther hired Bruce Weber of Southern Illinois.

Wilson is the second known coach who has been granted permission to speak with Geiger about the Ohio State opening after Jim O'Brien was fired June 8 for admitting he gave $6,000 to prospect Aleksander Radejovic during the 1998-99 season.

Sources said Geiger plans on going on the road to speak to candidates before bringing at least one candidate, perhaps a finalist, into Columbus on Thursday. If it is the finalist and the Columbus interview goes well, then the next Buckeyes coach could be named by Friday.

Vanderbilt has granted the Buckeyes permission to talk to Stallings, The Tennessean reported Monday. David Williams, Vanderbilt's vice chancellor for student life and university affairs, told the newspaper that Ohio State called late last week.

"But we told Andy Geiger that we were going to keep him," Williams was quoted as saying.

Stallings would not comment when reached by The Tennessean on Sunday night. His Commodores made the program's first NCAA Sweet 16 appearance since 1993 and finished 23-10 after losing to eventual national champion Connecticut.

Vanderbilt was working with Stallings on a new contract at season's end, but nothing has been finalized, The Tennessean reported. Stallings interviewed for the Ohio State position in 1997; he was coach at Illinois State at the time, then left for Vanderbilt two years later.

Multiple sources told ESPN.com that Stallings would be very interested in the Ohio State job if it were offered.

Ohio State also sought permission to speak with Rutgers coach Gary Waters, but Scarlet Knights' AD Robert Mulcahy declined the request, according to the Newark Star-Ledger.

Waters was Kent State's head coach between 1996 and 2001 and has maintained strong Midwest and Ohio ties.

Mulcahy said he has no plans to let Waters leave with four years remaining on a seven-year deal. "Gary and I have a handshake and an understanding that he is staying, so I told Ohio State no," Mulcahy said.

Waters told the Star-Ledger that he was unaware that Ohio State had sought permission to talk to him.

According to sources, Geiger never called for permission to speak with Marquette coach Tom Crean, Xavier's Thad Matta or Notre Dame's Mike Brey. That doesn't mean he won't, but as the July 8 recruiting period draws closer the likelihood that the latter two coaches would leave seems less likely.

Crean, who according to Big Ten sources was initially on a hot list of candidates, withdrew himself from consideration, even though he had never been contacted. Crean has told confidants that the Ohio State job intrigued him. But he has since grown fonder of Marquette, and it appears he'll be with the Eagles long-term.

"Although I prefer not to comment or speculate on another institution's search, I feel it is necessary at this time," Crean's statement said. "Despite what has been reported, I have not made myself a candidate for another opportunity and am happy at Marquette. The culture of our program is alive and well, and grows daily. I look forward to building on Marquette basketball's outstanding tradition."

Other coaches who could still be contacted and receive interviews are Lakers assistant and Ohio State alumnus Jim Cleamons, former NBA coach and current ESPN NBA analyst George Karl, Penn coach Fran Dunphy and Creighton Bulldogs coach Dana Altman.

Geiger called for permission to speak with Wilson, Stallings and Waters last Thursday, the same day he called Texas Tech to tell Hall of Fame coach Bob Knight that he would be going in a different direction.

Knight didn't pursue the job but influential Ohio State alumni were pushing for the program to hire the former Buckeye.

Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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