Jeff Boals

New Ohio University men’s head basketball coach Jeff Boals, center, is re-introduced to Athens at an event Monday at the Convocation Center. OU President Duane Nellis is on the left and Athletic Director Jim Schaus on the right. Boals wore the number 45 jersey when he played for the Bobcats in the 1990s. Photo by Conor Morris.

Ohio University announced Wednesday, March 13, that it had begun a search for new men’s basketball coach to replace coach Saul Phillips, whose contract was not renewed. By Sunday, a new coach had been announced, and this Monday Jeff Boals was introduced at the Convocation Center as the 19th head coach of the Ohio Bobcat men’s basketball program. 

Boals had been the head coach at Stony Brook University before he was hired to take over the Bobcats from Phillips, who had been head coach at Ohio for five seasons. 

“Although this search was very short, there was a comprehensive review on a national level of great head coaches and assistant coaches to meet what we were really looking for in a new head coach,” Ohio Athletic Director Jim Schaus said in the press conference Monday. “Jeff checked all the boxes and fit all the criteria that we had. I would say that one of the things that was exciting about the process was we got to take a look at what we wanted in a new head coach. We were able to obtain those things, but we got some bonuses along the way.”

A former Bobcat, Boals played for Ohio during one of the most successful stretches in the program’s history. Before graduating in 1995, he played on the 1993-94 Bobcats that went 25-8 and won the Mid-American Conference regular season title and the MAC Tournament championship. 

Boals played for the Bobcats under head coach Larry Hunter and was given his first assistant coach job by Hunter at Ohio. Hunter, who passed away in May 2018, gave Boals his start after Boals’ playing career ended with a torn ACL in his senior year. 

“I wish my head coach could be here today,” Boals said Monday at his introductory press conference. “Coach Hunter meant a lot to me. I wish he could be here. He got me started in coaching. Twenty-four years later, here we are. It’s hard to believe it’s come full circle.”

Boals made stops at Marshall and Akron before joining Thad Marta’s staff at Ohio State from 2009-16. Since taking over the Seawolves at Stony Brook in 2016, Boals put together a 55-41 overall record and a 31-17 mark in the America East Conference. Before departing for Ohio, Boals had a successful final season at Stony Brook, going 24-8 (12-4 America East). 

Now, the transition back to a Bobcat already has begun. Boals will hit the recruiting trail immediately, and that could include winning over the players already on Ohio’s roster. As for incoming players, Boals said he already has offered scholarships to high-school players. 

Boals’ staff is expected to be much of the same as his Stony Brook staff. That could include former Bobcat Geno Ford, who is acting as interim head coach at Stony Brook. If Ford is not hired as permanent coach at the New York State school, he’s expected to migrate over to Boals’ staff. 

A native of Magnolia, Ohio, Boals works with a staff consisting of other Ohio natives. That could be a big help in local recruiting.

“I think that with our staff, hopefully Geno [Ford] has a chance to get the job at Stony Brook, and the other guys will probably come with us,” Boals said Monday. “Ironically, all those guys are from Ohio. From Columbus, Akron, near Canton. It just kind of happened that way. It’s important to have relationships with the high-school coaches and the AAU coaches.”

Boals fit all the criteria Schaus needed for a new head coach, so it will be interesting to see how that translates to success at Ohio. 

Up in the rafters of the Convocation Center hang victory banners thanks in part to Boals’ work as a player. Soon, his coaching influence could add more accomplishments to showcase at the Convo. 

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