COLUMBUS, Ohio — Both Kevin McGuff and Ohio State have a lot of money riding on their new union.
The 43-year-old McGuff made his first official appearance as the new women’s basketball coach of the Buckeyes on Wednesday.
“For somebody who 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 at midcourt of the team’s arena. “And 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 spending nine years as the head coach at Xavier and the past two at Washington, the Hamilton, Ohio, native said it was good to be back home. He takes over for Hall of Fame coach Jim Foster, who was fired after an 18-13 season — his first during his 11-year tenure without 20 wins or a trip to the NCAA tournament.
Ohio State is paying McGuff $850,000 a year, not counting performance and academic bonuses, along with $500,000 in retention payments if he remains on the job through the 2020-21 season. He also received a $700,000 signing bonus.
He can earn up to $150,000 more if his team has a high grade-point average. If the Buckeyes win at least a share of the Big Ten’s regular-season title, he gets $20,000 plus an additional year onto his contract. Win the conference tournament, he receives $40,000 and an additional year. Plus, if he gets Ohio State into the NCAA tournament — where it had been for Foster’s first 10 seasons — he’ll get $40,000. Subsequent steps in the NCAAs would fatten his paycheck by $20,000 on up to $100,000 for winning the school’s first national championship.
Since he signed a contract extension just three weeks ago at Washington, where he was 41-26 the last two years with two trips to the WNIT, McGuff is on the hook for a $1.75 million buyout.
“That’s his responsibility,” said Miechelle Willis, that associate AD who oversees Ohio State’s women’s program.
McGuff and his wife Letitia have six kids, including a newborn. He was asked how he will pay off the buyout owed to UW.
“We’re still working through it,” he said.
His family could not be with him for his introduction.
“The logistics weren’t (there) to get everybody from Seattle to Columbus,” he said with a laugh.
Foster, who has a record of 783-307 in 35 years as a head coach at Saint Joseph’s, Vanderbilt and Ohio State, was fired on March 19. One of the reasons stated by Willis was “postseason production, or lack thereof.”
The Buckeyes were nationally ranked with high seedings most years heading into the NCAA tournament, yet were eliminated in the first round three times and the second four times, with three other trips to the round of 16 before falling.
McGuff’s Xavier teams only made one deep foray into the NCAA tournament, a trip to the regional championship game in 2010. The Musketeers lost in the first round four times, the second round once and participated in the WNIT three other years.
While an assistant at Miami (Ohio), McGuff became friends with current Ohio State men’s coach Thad Matta. Both were head coaches at Xavier at the same time.
McGuff said he had spoken to Matta, who was hesitant to intrude on the search for a replacement for Foster. But after the hunt faltered, Matta spoke to athletic director Gene Smith.
“As much as anything, just to make sure that Gene knew that I would be very interested if they had an interest (in me),” McGuff said.
Matta was at the news conference.
The new coach said he would speak to players soon and evaluate recruiting and offseason workouts. He thanks Foster for leaving a solid foundation.
“This is going to be a players’ program,” McGuff said. “It’s about our players and their experience.”
Willis called the Buckeyes one of the top-5 programs in the country. McGuff said his goal was to make Ohio State a national power.
Ohio State graduated its two top players last year, including Tayler Hill, taken No. 4 in this week’s NBA draft by the Washington Mystics.
“I was hoping that maybe she didn’t show up (for the draft) and somehow got a sixth year,” McGuff said. “I know we graduated two really good players (including Amber Stokes). That’s going to hurt. But right now it’s about, what can we do with the current team. I’ve heard nothing but great things about our players and I’m looking forward to getting to know them a little bit more what they can do on the court and figure out a way to have success.”