Ohio Bobcats men's basketball coach Jeff Boals has been very busy since his hire on March 17th. The 19th coach in team history, he's had to hire a staff, put together his first recruiting class, and make it through spring workouts with an incredibly short-handed roster. (He had only four players!)
However, Thursday night he set aside some time to meet with some Ohio fans as he came to central Ohio as part of the Bobcats Caravan.
Boals is certainly familiar with the area, having been an assistant to Ohio State coach Thad Matta, and his comments on the former Buckeye head man were especially interesting. See a transcript of our interview with Boals below...
Question: I know you've hit the ground running with recruiting. How is it that you managed to stay in touch with the Ohio high schools? Because I've talked to the high school coaches, and they love you and said you stayed in touch with them, even when you went to (Stony Brook).
Boals: Yeah, you know I grew up in Ohio, played at Ohio University, and was at Ohio State for seven years. So you always want to keep those relationships, because you never know. We recruited Ohio when I was at Stony Brook. I only got one kid from Cincinnati, but it's always good to maintain those ties, and it really helped us when we got the job here at Ohio University.
Question: Do you anticipate building Ohio University back the same way--not that OU's in the same place that Stony Brook was--but there was a building process that took place there. Do you anticipate something similar happening here?
Boals: Yeah, I think it will be a little bit similar. We're going to do it the right way. We've got six commitments, five kids signed; and five of those kids are high school kids. So we want to do it the right way, and kinda get old together. I learned a long time ago, the better players you have, the better coach you are, so recruiting is the name of the game.
Question: I cover OSU, and they're always recruiting graduate transfers. How much of an option is that at a MAC school?
Boals: Yeah, you know it's completely changed. Now the transfer portal, the grad transfer, it's almost like you have to recruit year-to-year. You can't look ahead two to three years down the road.
Question: So that's having a big impact on MAC schools, too?
Boals: It does. I mean, you look across the country, a lot of best players at mid-level schools are transferring up, and you've got to maintain the relationships with the kids that you have, and keep an eye open for everything else.
Question: How different was Ohio when you got back than when you had left it?
Boals: It's a lot different. It's kinda neat to see professors and people who watched you play, but it's grown a lot: more restaurants, buildings are better, some bar owners are the same people. It's awesome to be back.
Question: Have you been in touch with Thad (Matta) since you've been named Ohio's head coach?
Boals: Yeah, I talk to Thad every week. He's been a big influence on me, a big mentor for me, and he's the absolute the best person off the court. A great mentor.
Question: That worries me, though, a little bit as an OU fan myself. (I'm not going to claim to be impartial.) But I know how much he's enjoying "retirement." I don't want you to talk to him too much to him, Jeff.
Boals: No, he's enjoying it right now. I know he's getting the itch to coach again, but he's in a great place mentally and physically.
Question: You got a recruit in Ben Roderick, who was mentioned as someone OSU was interested in. How key was that for you in establishing this foundation?
Boals: Yeah, that was huge. I talked to Chris Holtmann probably two weeks after I got the job, and I thanked him. I said, "Hey, you made me look really good." He's the type of kid that we need to get at Ohio University, and there's a lot of kids in central Ohio that we should be able to get, and we're going to recruit it hard.
Question: Do you finally have your office set up?
Boals: No, the office is far from it. I need pictures on the walls, new coach, some furniture. But the biggest thing has been hitting the ground running recruiting-wise, and we'll worry about the office later.
Question: And the current team? How much have you been able to interact with them? How much do you like what you're working with?
Boals: Yeah, so we had six guys returning, and when I got the job, two of them were hurt. So we really only had four of them to work out. So we did a lot of shooting, a lot of ball-handling stuff, skill stuff. I love them as people. They're excited to work this summer, and once June 17th rolls around, we'll have all the new guys in and have a full team.
We also spoke with football coach Frank Solich. Hear him here.