Horizon League Basketball

Chris Jent Is Not the Answer for Cleveland State

Normally when a high-major assistant coach expresses interest in a mid-major head coaching job, the reaction is understandably mixed.

But when it comes to Ohio State assistant Chris Jent looking into the Cleveland State job, the whole situation is just plain head-scratching.

Sure, Jent is considered a legend in the annals of Buckeye basketball, having played in Columbus during the salad days of the Randy Ayers era. And of course, that means those within the Cleveland sports media who have long championed Ohio State over any other Division I school in the area were absolutely ecstatic about the news.

Moreover, Jent will be long remembered for his place on the Cleveland Cavaliers coaching staff from 2006 to 2011. And yes, that means he coached LeBron James, so that’s a rather noteworthy item.

However, when you look over Jent’s resume, it doesn’t exactly scream out as a top candidate for the Cleveland State job. It reads more like somebody who would bolt college for another shot at the NBA the first chance he got.

While it’s true that Jent came back to the Buckeyes after a year as the head coach of the Phoenix Suns’ D-League affiliate, the Bakersfield Jam. But Jent’s first full season as an Ohio State assistant didn’t go terribly well. In fact, those who follow Buckeye basketball with any regularity are opening wondering why head coach Thad Matta is even getting another year.

Now, while I understand the buck stops with the head coach and blame shouldn’t be placed on Jent’s shoulders, the idea that he’d want to leave after a single season with Ohio State (and a bad one at that) should make anybody wonder if he wouldn’t do the same thing to CSU.

Two other major factors in play for any candidate for Cleveland State are ties to Northeast Ohio, the likely reason why former CSU assistant Jermaine Kimbrough is in the mix, and previous head coaching experience, a key trait of Fairmont State’s Jerrod Calhoun and Stony Brook assistant and former Kent State head coach Geno Ford.

Jent has the year of head coaching with the Bakersfield Jam under his belt, plus an interim stint with the Orlando Magic. However, college and the NBA, even the D-League, are different animals entirely. And with only three years as a college assistant spread out over a decade and a half doesn’t exude confidence that the local recruiting connections will be there for him.

And Cleveland State hasn’t had the best of luck with Big Ten assistants. Mike Boyd and, more recently, Mike Garland come to mind. Boyd started out well but ultimately fizzled out and Garland never got started in his four years at the helm of the Vikings. Again, it may not be fair to lump Jent in with previous Big Ten assistants-turned-CSU coaches, but he will suffer by comparison.

The most concerned question out of all of this, though, is what direction Jent would go as Cleveland State’s coach. Garland, in his tenure, attempted to turn CSU into Michigan State-South, and it ended terribly. Would Jent’s goal be to create a northern version of Ohio State?

Given how the Buckeyes have struggled the past couple of seasons, that may not be the best move. More importantly, for a school like CSU that already struggles to get out of the shadows of Ohio State already, the perception that Cleveland State is nothing more than OSU red-headed stepsister would only be magnified.

So, as much as Buckeye Nation would revel in one of their own making the jump to head coach, the criteria for Jent to succeed at CSU just doesn’t seem to be there. With that, it’s probably in Cleveland State’s best interest to shift its focus to somebody else.

Email Bob at bob [dot] mcdonald [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

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Bob has written sports, ranging from high school to college, for many years, and is the Senior Editor for basketball at Campus Pressbox. The former Cleveland State columnist at More Than a Fan: Cleveland, he co-hosts the Horizone Roundtable podcast on Fourlights.fm with Jimmy Lemke of PantherU.com and co-hosted Slow Thumbs Up, a podcast that talks about the reality show Big Brother, with his wife, Jessica. He has also published a novella, Dilemma, and two novels, Flagrant Foul and The Gray Summer, which was released in April 2017.