Diebler, Dad Ready For Senior Season

No matter what kind of senior season Jon Diebler experiences, it will be a family affair. His father, Keith, will give up the reigns as a head basketball coach for one season in order to take in every one of his son's games this fall.

When Jon Diebler takes the court for his senior season at Ohio State, he will have one extra pair of eyes on him at all times. Seated in the parents' section, his father Keith will be there watching his youngest son in his final season in Columbus.

But in order to do so, the elder Diebler will be giving up the profession he holds dear to his heart: coaching basketball. After earning his first head job in 1974 and compiling 350 varsity victories along the way, the only coaching Keith will do this fall will come via conversations with his son.

All three of the Diebler boys have played collegiate basketball. In addition to Jon's exploits at OSU, oldest brother Jeremiah will suit up for his senior season at NAIA school Lindsey Wilson in Kentucky and middle brother Jake will be in his first year as a student assistant at Valparaiso after earning four letters in the program.

The demands of being the head boys' varsity coach have resulted in Keith not being able to be present as his kids have continued their careers at the next level.

Now this year, the man who has roamed the sidelines for nearly 30 years and adopted a style his youngest son describes as "controlled chaos" will settle into the more relaxed tempo of being a father and not a coach.

Don't look for him to be diagramming plays in the crowd either.

"At Ohio State, he couldn't be in better hands so I'm a dad," he told BuckeyeSports.com. "I don't want to get into the coaching or criticizing and things like that because I want to enjoy it. I would say the only time I become a coach is if he gets beat defensively or he's not following through on his shot or something like that, but for the most part I'd say that is very minimal.

"I enjoy going to the games and the atmosphere and I know he's in great hands with (head coach Thad) Matta and the rest of the staff."

The decision to hang up his whistle actually nearly came a year ago, but after guiding Upper Sandusky to a 16-5 record and a league title Diebler did not want to leave the cupboard bare for his replacement. The Rams went 3-19 last season.

"I kept (the job) this year and we won three games and there are nine lettermen coming back so we played a lot of young kids," he said. "I think next year the coach is going to have a pretty good shot at winning some games. I just didn't want to end and have somebody come in without a chance."

In addition, Keith received some advice from another Buckeye parent. Prior to last season, Bill Titus, father of walk-on and blogger Mark, made the decision to attend every one of his son's games during his senior season. He then shared that sentiment with Diebler.

"Mark's dad told my father it's something that you're always going to remember, going to the different venues to watch him play," Jon said. "He said there's nothing like it. I think it really helped my dad, because he got pretty excited."

After playing football and basketball and running track at North Robinson (Ohio) Colonel Crawford – about 30 minutes east of Upper Sandusky – Diebler described himself as a shooter who lacked the size to play in college. His first coaching jobs were fifth- and sixth-grade basketball as he began his move up the ranks.

"It's the respect for the game," he said. "It's the only place you can go out in shorts and a tank top and play in front of 19,000 people in the state tournament. It's a tremendous respect I have for the game."

On the sidelines, Diebler is a fiery coach whose respect for the game is readily on display. After playing in a high school offense that gave its players well-defined roles on the court, he went the other way when coming up with his own game plans.

Diebler said he drew inspiration from a handful of coaches including legendary Marquette coach Al McGuire, who used his so-called "mosquito defense" to harass opponents the entire length of the court. It was a style that allowed his Golden Eagles to capture the 1977 national championship.

Offensively, Diebler has given his players the freedom to make their own decisions on the court.

"The style we play is very demanding physically but also challenging decision-wise because the kids get to make decisions," the coach said. "When you get down to it, that's what life is about: constantly making decisions. I think it should be that way on the basketball floor too."

Although he appreciates his dad's decision, Jon said he could never have asked him to give up coaching.

"It means the world to me," he said. "He'd always ask me, ‘Do you want me to give up coaching?' I was like, ‘Dad, you can't ask me that question because that's like asking me to give up basketball.' That's his love. That's his passion – coaching.

"For him to sacrifice that and make the decision to come follow me my senior year, that really means a lot. It shows how much he cares and how much he really does love me."

The move will be effective for the upcoming season, but Keith offered no promises beyond that.

"My passion is still there," he said. "That's why I'm saying today is whatever it is and I'm not coaching, but I'm not going to promise that's not going to continue because I still have that passion and I still think that I can get kids to play hard and come at you and still have fun with the game."

In other words, look for a return to action next season.

"I know he'll get back into it," Jon said. "There's no doubt in my mind about that."

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