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Coach Jim O'Brien deserves second chance


Feb. 24, 2005
I know many of you will say that I can't be serious about this, but I am ... if I were an athletic director looking for a quality leader on the sidelines, one guy I would consider is former Ohio State coach Jim O'Brien.

Yes, I know he made a big mistake that got the university in trouble. What he did was wrong, even though he used his heart to help a player instead of using his head.

Jim O''Brien
Jim O'Brien led Ohio State to the 1999 Final Four. He also coached at Boston College.
But if you look at his overall resumé and his lifetime track record, you'll understand that he is a special guy.

O'Brien coached at Ohio State for six years and led the Buckeyes to the Final Four in 1999, where they lost to eventual national champion Connecticut. Look back at his success as the coach at Boston College for 11 years, and even back to his playing days. O'Brien is a quality individual.

He has been away from the sidelines for almost a full season now, and he deserves another opportunity.

What O'Brien did at Ohio State — making a decision to give money to a player — was obviously wrong. His intention at the time was to lend a helping hand, but it was a poor decision. And Ohio State had no choice but to make a coaching change.

In a statement O'Brien gave through his lawyer at the time of his dismissal last June, he didn't dispute that he gave money to recruit Aleksandar Radojevic, a 7-foot-3 center from Yugoslavia. But before Radojevic ever attended a class at Ohio State, the NCAA ruled he was ineligible for accepting cash from a pro team in Yugoslavia.

If you knew what O'Brien is all about, you'd feel like I do. He can be a winner again, if given a chance. I'm sure he's learned from his error in judgment.

Remember, people make mistakes in life, and they should be given an opportunity to battle back. O'Brien would take advantage of a second chance, and I feel that the program that hires him will definitely benefit.

If you talk to O'Brien's peers and friends, people who know him well and coaches who have competed against him over the years, they will tell you he's a good person. He simply let a situation get out of control.

Look at how many athletes have received a second chance after making a mistake. It could be an assault, a drug problem, a DUI — you name it. They often come back to standing ovations. O'Brien's error was due to compassion.

O'Brien has paid his price, losing his job and all the cash that went with it. But I've always believed in giving people a second chance. It's time he gets another shot at the big time.

I hope an athletic director eventually will call O'Brien and offer him that opportunity.

Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question to Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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