- Andy Katz, ESPN Senior Writer
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Ohio State won't make a hire until next week, multiple sources told ESPN.com.
A team of three, including athletic director Andy Geiger, interviewed four candidates this week: Rice coach Willis Wilson, Lakers assistant Jim Cleamons, Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings and Penn coach Fran Dunphy.
That list will be whittled down to one or two after the interviews. But Geiger wants the finalists to meet with Ohio State president Karen Holbrook, who was on vacation this week.
Meanwhile, attempts to deepen the pool were rebuffed. Sources said Ohio State tried to see if Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli was interested in the job but was told no. An intermediary tried to test the interest of Mike Brey of Notre Dame. But sources said Brey isn't looking to get involved in the Ohio State job search.
Stallings interviewed for the Ohio State opening Wednesday in Nashville, multiple sources close to the search told ESPN.com Wednesday night.
Sources said Stallings and Wilson both felt positive about their interviews but weren't told they would be the next coach. Geiger is known to follow a process and could bring two coaches to campus, as he did in 1997. That's when he hired then-Boston College coach Jim O'Brien. The second choice was Stallings, who was then the head coach at Illinois State.
O'Brien was fired June 8 for admitting he gave a recruit "humanitarian aid" of $6,000 in 1998-99. Rick Boyages was named interim coach but isn't expected to be retained as the full-time coach.
Stallings is coming off a Sweet 16 appearance with the Commodores, losing to eventual national champion Connecticut in the Phoenix region. The Commodores lost their best player in Matt Freije but still are expected to be a legit threat to finish third behind Kentucky and Florida in the SEC East in 2005.
Sources said Vanderbilt is proactively trying to sign Stallings to an extension. The Commodores were reactive to the Ohio State search, but have since been updating Stallings almost daily on the progress of the new deal.
Sources said Geiger told the coaches that he doesn't want the search to stretch too deep into next week, but both Wilson and Stallings aren't under pressure and can wait out the Ohio State process, even if it carries into next week's evaluation period (starting July 8). Both coaches are scheduled to be in Indianapolis on July 7 for the National Association of Basketball Coaches annual meeting.
Cleamons assisted Phil Jackson in winning nine NBA titles with the Lakers and Bulls but is considered the third coach on this list by multiple sources.
Sources said Ohio State is looking for a coach from a strong academic background who recruits a higher-caliber student-athlete, which makes sense when one sees coaches from Rice and Vanderbilt on the short list. Geiger isn't expected to be the Buckeyes' athletic director long-term as he gets closer to retirement, but he wants a coach who will be in Columbus for years to come.
Ohio State also asked for permission to talk with Xavier's Thad Matta and Rutgers' Gary Waters. Matta denied meeting with Ohio State this week. Matta publicly said Tuesday that he is staying at Xavier. Rutgers athletic director Robert Mulcahy denied Ohio State access to Waters.
Geiger made a rare phone call last week to Texas Tech coach Bob Knight to tell the Hall of Fame coach and Ohio State alumnus that the Buckeyes are going in a different direction. Knight was a popular choice among Ohio State alumni and influential members of the basketball community.
Wilson worked for Mike Montgomery at Stanford in 1992 before going to his alma mater, Rice, to become the head coach. Geiger hired Montgomery at Stanford in 1986, making the bold move after Montgomery was at Montana but couldn't get the Grizzlies to the NCAA Tournament. Montgomery ended up being one of the best college basketball coaches of the past two decades, leading the Cardinal to the top of the Pac-10 with Arizona on a regular basis and receiving a legends of coaching honor from the John Wooden Award last April. Montgomery left Stanford last month to be the Golden State Warriors' head coach.
Senior writer Andy Katz covers men's college basketball for ESPN.com.