Boals Finally Makes It To OSU

Thad Matta has had to fill plenty of openings on his staff over the past few years, and this time he went outside of his coaching family to hire former Akron associate head coach Jeff Boals. But that doesn't mean the Ohio native is unfamiliar with the program. He has spent his playing and coaching career in the Midwest and followed the Buckeyes this year – at least in one way.

Jeff Boals knows plenty about Ohio State.

Not only did the mother of the new men's basketball assistant graduate from OSU, not only does his sister lives in Gahanna, but Boals was able to follow the Buckeyes a little bit the past season even while serving as the top assistant at Akron.

The Ohio University graduate did so by reading the "Club Trillion" blog of walk-on Mark Titus.

"My first year (at OU), I remember a played 39 minutes – not even a whole game. I told Titus my best was five trillion," Boals told the media to laughter. "You know what, believe it or not, I had (the website) bookmarked in my Blackberry before I even got here."

Now he'll have the chance to learn much more as an assistant on the Buckeye team having been hired by Matta in a move that was announced Tuesday to replace Archie Miller, who joined his brother Sean when he took the job as the new head coach at Arizona.

Matta said that he had Boals in mind as soon as Miller left after the Magnolia, Ohio, native helped lead Akron to the NCAA tournament this season.

"Jeff has definitely played a role in helping build that program and the programs that he's been in," Matta said. "We're excited. I love the fact that he's a born Buckeye and has tremendous passion for this university. I think one of the biggest challenges when you go to make a hire on your staff is getting guys that appreciate – a lot like we do in recruiting, we want guys that appreciate this great university, and Jeff is somebody that definitely has that passion."

"It's a dream come true," Boals added. "The last couple of days driving in on (state route) 315 and driving past the Horseshoe and then to the Schott, you get chills doing it. It's really exciting to be here."

Boals admitted that he wanted to attend Ohio State growing up as a basketball player in his hometown, but an offer from the Buckeyes never came. Neither did one from anywhere else after he tore up his knee during his final high school game, an exhibition all-star game held in St. John Arena.

Instead he walked on at Ohio University and built himself into a starter alongside Gary Trent, the so-called "Shaq of the MAC" who went on to a 10-year NBA career. Boals was on the Bobcat team that beat Ohio State on the road – as well as Virginia, New Mexico State and George Washington – on the way to the 1993 preseason NIT title.

As an undersized forward, Boals had to scrap and fight for what he got.

"I was athletically challenged, I think might be a good way to put it," he said. "I was never one of those guys who was going to outjump anybody, outrun anybody, so I had to be cerebral, a coach-on-the-court type. I was a role guy, a glue guy, and I tried to do all of the little things, stuff to win basketball games. I think that's kind of carried into the coaching aspect. I've never felt that I could just get somebody based on who I was or where I was coaching. I had to do the work."

Boals began his coaching career at OU upon graduating in 1995 with a degree in biology and moved on to have stints at Marshall, the University of Charleston and Robert Morris before his most recent three-year stint with the Zips.

This past year, Boals was the program's associate head coach and recruiting coordinator as Akron went 23-13 and won their first MAC tournament title.

"I've worn pretty much every hat," he said of his coaching career. "One of the worst things and best things I've ever done was I was the compliance director for 14 sports, which I don't envy those people at all, but it was one of the best things because I was in the rulebook. I've driven vans, cranked baskets, swept the floor and done the laundry.

"I just feel like nothing is beneath me. I don't feel like I'm better than anything. I feel like my role here is to roll my sleeves up, be who I am, come in and do a great job recruiting in the state and continue the excellence that has happened here."

His attitude helped endear him to Matta, who said that he and both past and former assistants have held Boals in high regard as they've watched him over the past few seasons.

"I think as you go to hire, you don't want guys coming in that'll just say, ‘Tell me what to do, tell me how you want it done,' " Matta said. "You want guys that are innovating and have seen different things and have different tactics or philosophies that will work, and that's definitely what we got with Jeff."

Boals has worked in the development of post players at nearly every stop along the way, and Matta said he liked the tough, workmanlike way in which Boals played during his career and has since coached.

For his part, Boals said he's looking forward to working with his new charges and aiding in their development in any way he can.

"I've met all of the guys and one thing I can say is they all seem like high-character guys, fun to be around, hard-working," he said. "That's all you can ask for. Anytime you have good guys that want to work hard, good things most likely tend to happen."

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