Boyages, a loyal O'Brien assistant for 10 years, expressed concern for his former boss. At the same time, he said he believes he is a viable candidate to assume the head job on a permanent basis.
Dials spoke for his teammates and shared what transpired when O'Brien met with the team for the final time Tuesday afternoon, just minutes before athletic director Andy Geiger announced O'Brien's firing.
"I think I speak for the whole team when I say we're all in shock right now," Dials said. "We didn't know any of this was coming about. When Coach O'Brien told us, we were a little shocked. There are a lot of emotions going through our heads right now, but we‘re a family and we should be able to get through it."
O'Brien was fired for, among other things, admitting he once gave a recruit from Yugoslavia $6,000 as humanitarian aid. Dials shared what O'Brien had to say in the meeting, which was conducted at the home of one of the OSU coaches.
"He just told us the situation and what happened with him and our program," Dials said. "He just wanted to let us know he wants us to keep going. We have worked hard this last nine weeks here. He wants us to keep going forward and not take a step backward.
"Quite naturally, it was pretty sad. He's leaving as a part of this family right now. It was real shocking. We had no idea what was coming. They called a meeting earlier in the day. He let us know off the top what the situation was, and the room just got quiet."
Dials, who will be a junior in 2004-05, said he is committed to leading the team. He said he was unaware of any players who have decided to transfer in the wake of O‘Brien‘s firing.
"We just have to keep moving forward," he said. "This is a thing of the past. We have to keep working hard and improve on what we did last season. It‘s still our goal to be a better team next year, regardless of who our coach is. Coach Boyages is going to keep the ship rolling."
Dials said he and the players have not met with Geiger, although he expects to in the period ahead.
"The university is a lot bigger than any individual," Dials said. "A lot of the players come here because of the school and the university. The coach is a great influence as well. But he's moved on and we have to move on to. It's still a great university to play at."
Dials said he would back Boyages getting the job on a permament basis.
"Personally, I would like to see Coach Boyages as our new head coach," he said. "He has been with Coach O'Brien and he knows the system. I think he would be a great fit for us. As far as what Andy Geiger wants, I don't know and I'm not sure."
For his part, Boyages tossed his hat into the ring to be O'Brien's successor.
"Absolutely I would consider myself as a viable candidate for this job," Boyages said. "I have been a college coach for 20 years, including a decade in the Big East and the Big Ten. I have been the associate head coach just about from day one (under O'Brien). I've been a Division I head coach.
"I feel I am more than qualified, but I understand how difficult it is. I feel I am well respected in the community. Andy has stated he would consider me as a viable candidate, but I know there will be an active search."
Boyages was approached by O'Brien and Geiger a year ago to come back to Ohio State. He had left after the 1999-2000 season to become the head coach at William & Mary. He maintains he had no knowledge of the alleged NCAA violations that may have been committed by the staff during his first tenure at Ohio State.
"I was not involved in recruiting at that time," he said.
Boyages said he was comfortable remaining at OSU, even if it is just to aid the transition.
"As difficult as this is, I am very proud to assist the university in any way I can," he said. "I will do what I can to assure our players, recruits and future prospects and commit all of my energy to the basketball program."
Under advice from Geiger, Boyages did not go into specifics on topics that could be related to an NCAA investigation.
"It has been a whirlwind," he said. "I was informed about it at noon yesterday by Andy Geiger. I would consider this to be a thunderbolt. It has caught everybody by surprise."
When asked if he felt betrayed in any sense by O'Brien bringing him back to OSU only to be fired a year later, Boyages said, "I had a 10-year track record with Jim O'Brien and our families are extremely close. I guess I have a varying amount of opinions about it. I am not at all bitter. It was a privilege to have a chance to work with him. I have great respect for him as a basketball coach and as a person."
Boyages said he has only spoken with O'Brien briefly since this all came down.
"I had a discussion with Jim prior to our meeting with the team yesterday," he said. "I just wanted to convey my support to him as a friend. My sentiment was more along the lines of `How are you doing?' "
Boyages said he or staff members have been in contact with all four of OSU's incoming signees.
"The feelings (from them) have been good," he said. "I think they acknowledge the strength of the institution. They acknowledge that it is still probably a good situation for them individually. We have the best facilities in America. I think they're pleased with the honesty and integrity we have expressed."