Accordingly, he named junior-to-be Terence Dials as the team's captain.
"We've told Terence he's our captain," O'Brien said at the team's end-of-season press conference Monday. "We're not waiting. We're not voting. I just told Terence he is our leader. This is his team. We want him to assume the responsibility of the group right now."
O'Brien was asked whether he has allowed teams to decide their own captains in the past.
"Yeah, here and there ... not this year," he said.
Coming off a disappointing 14-16 season, O'Brien said he wanted focused leadership. Dials will actually be in his fourth year in the program after redshirting last year due to injury.
"This was done before we left for spring break," O'Brien said. "It was just something that kind of happened that I wanted to do before they left (for break)."
Beginning Tuesday, O'Brien and his staff will begin putting the Buckeyes through 6:30 a.m. workouts.
"I don't think that our group right now can afford to be leader-less as we go through these workouts," he said. "We need somebody to be in charge of the group and establish that when the coaches are not around that there is going to be this leadership. I think our team, the way it is right now, we desperately need to establish that there is somebody today that is the guy."
Dials discussed his appointment as team captain.
"It's an honor, especially here at Ohio State," Dials said. "Not too many people can say they were a captain here. I take that as an honor. I've got respect from most of my teammates and coaches. Hopefully I can lead by example.
"There's a lot of guys on this team who just need a little guidance. Hopefully I can provide that and let them know we're here to win, not just to play games. Hopefully that will sink in this off-season."
Big Off-Season Plans
O'Brien discussed what he wants to see from his team this spring.
"I think we have to get tougher," he said. "We need to be tougher physically and mentally. We are going to challenge them a lot in those areas. That's a big area for us right now.
"Because we can't work with them during the summer, we will just give them some things they need to work on during the summer months. While our school is still in session, we can work with them.
"I think some of our deficiencies are in regard to toughness."
Nick Dials' Status
It was reported in Saturday's edition of The Columbus Dispatch that freshman guard Nick Dials may not return next year if he goes off scholarship.
Dials was awarded OSU's last remaining scholarship last summer. OSU has two scholarships open. One would go to Michigan schoolboy star Malik Hairston if he picks OSU over Kansas and UCLA. The other could potentially go to a junior college transfer. Chipola (Fla.) Community College guard Ja'Kel Foster made an official visit to OSU this past weekend.
But O'Brien is hopeful that Dials will go slow with any decision.
"We would love to have Nick back on our team next year," O'Brien said. "As of right now, he has not been offered a scholarship for next season. We're hoping he is going to be a little bit more patient to see how things shake out.
"Just to make sure everybody understands, Nick came here a year ago without any guarantees about scholarships or anything like that. He was able to get a scholarship in his first year. It was kind of a bonus for him this past year. We really like having him on our team, but we just have to be a little bit more patient in regard to how this is going to shake out."
Refuting The Rumors (Again)
As always when O'Brien has met with the media over the last month, he was asked one more time about rumors he could be leaving OSU for St. John's.
"I am not involved with St. John's University, nor have I ever been," O'Brien said. "Anybody who puts my name on a list for that job is making a grave error."
The coach was asked why he has never closed the door entirely on considering that job -- or any other.
"I think you never say never about anything," he said. "But as of right now ... I am thrilled to be coaching here at Ohio State. I have no plan to be coaching anywhere else."
O'Brien chastized the news media in general for giving life to such rumors -- or creating them themselves.
"There is no penalty to anybody in your profession to just send stuff out there," O'Brien said. "If it's right, then they've hit a home run. If it's wrong, oh well. When these things start on this Internet and they're wrong and they're not even remotely close to being accurate, who challenges anybody who starts these things? There is none.
"They just float it out there on the chance maybe it will happen. And if it does, they say, `I was the one who told you first.' If it doesn't, oh well.
"So then, guys like me have to put out these fires. But there has never been anything to my connection to St. John's."
Going a step further, O'Brien was then asked about rumors that Texas Tech coach Bobby Knight is coming to Columbus, conceivably to replace O'Brien as the head coach at his alma mater.
"I don't think it's funny," O'Brien said. "I don't know what else to say about it."
O'Brien joked that the St. John's job would not be all that appealing at this late date.
"If I haven't been contacted by now, why would they now?" O'Brien joked. "Unless there's nobody else."