Thad Matta knew Chris Jent might not be long for the job when Matta added Jent to the Ohio State men’s basketball coaching staff two years ago.
“Chris is an NBA guy,” Matta said last night. “He told me when he came in that the only place he would coach college basketball was Ohio State,” where Jent also played for four years and graduated from.
“My thing is, in the two years he was here, he made this program better. That’s all I can ever ask from an assistant coach.”
The Sacramento Kings announced the hiring of Jent yesterday. He will reunite there with new head coach Michael Malone, a friend since they played AAU basketball against each other as teenagers. Later, they worked together on the Cleveland Cavaliers coaching staff from 2006-10.
Jent did not immediately respond last night to a message seeking comment. But in an interview with The Dispatch on Friday while he waited at Port Columbus for a flight to Sacramento, he said his relationship with Malone made the opportunity “very intriguing, because rarely do you get an opportunity to work for a guy you really know at (the NBA) level, someone you have a great understanding of how they operate, and they know you and how you operate. There’s no guessing. It’s unique in that way.”
Jent, 43, helped Ohio State reach the Final Four in 2012 and Elite Eight last season.
“You had a guy that loved Ohio State, who wanted Ohio State to do well, who came in and immediately built relationships with players and made guys better,” Matta said. “He gave us every ounce of everything he had, just as he did as a player.”
Jent acknowledged that his two years coaching college basketball were challenging because of the NCAA’s restrictions on the amount of time coaches can work with players on the court.
“It has been difficult at times not to coach all the time, not to consume myself in basketball. That’s just kind of what I’ve known,” he said.
“Basketball has been such a huge part of my life, and sometimes in college, the furthest from the job you’re doing is the sport itself.”
Jent played and coached professionally for 17 years before taking the Ohio State job. He worked one season apiece with the Philadelphia 76ers and Orlando Magic before being hired by the Cavs in 2006.
He said Sacramento was the first NBA job he “pursued” since returning to Ohio State and that Matta was “very supportive.”
“He’s one of a kind,” Jent said.
The likely candidate to fill the vacant staff position is former Duke point guard Greg Paulus, who has been the Buckeyes’ video coordinator the past two seasons.
Matta did not deny that scenario last night but said, “I’ve been instructed that I can’t comment until the job has been posted for one week.”