National title hopes on McGuff’s list

OSU welcomes women’s coach

OSU women's basketball coach Kevin McGuff answers questions during a news conference on Wednesday.
OSU women's basketball coach Kevin McGuff answers questions during a news conference on Wednesday.

COLUMBUS — Ohio State began its search for a new women's basketball coach with a blindfolded half-court heave.

It ended with a much surer bet.

A month-long search that included one twist after another — including a reported blank-check bid to land Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma and a major scare for the University of Toledo — ended with the introduction Wednesday of an Ohio native who called coaching the Buckeyes his dream job.

Former Washington coach Kevin McGuff vowed to make Ohio State a national contender, and will be paid well to do it. OSU signed the 43-year-old Hamilton, Ohio, native to an eight-year deal worth at least $850,000 per season.

“For somebody that grew up in Ohio and coaches women’s basketball, this is always the job I’ve looked at as saying, if there was one job I could ever have, it would be that one,” McGuff said in a news conference at the Schottenstein Center. “If there’s one job where I thought I’d be an amazing fit and could do a fantastic job, it was Ohio State.”

After firing longtime coach Jim Foster, the nation’s largest athletic department went all-in to land a big name.

One coach after another turned them down. Though executive associate athletics director Miechelle Willis declined to comment on Toledo’s Tricia Cullop and other candidates, the Columbus Dispatch reported the list of those who said no included Auriemma, South Carolina’s Dawn Staley, former Texas coach Gail Goestenkors, Louisville’s Jeff Walz, Kentucky’s Matthew Mitchell, and Duke’s Joanne McCallie.

The final choice appeared to come down to Cullop, who met with OSU officials Monday, and McGuff, who signed an extension at Washington three weeks ago that left him responsible for a $1.75 million buyout.

McGuff is 255-99 in 11 seasons at Xavier and UW. He led the Musketeers to five straight NCAA tournament appearances — including the Elite Eight in 2010 — and was 41-26 at UW.

Asked about the length of the search, Willis said, “We were doing due diligence.”