Marquette coach considered front-runner

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State appears to be concentrating its search for a new basketball coach on Marquette's Tom Crean now that the Buckeyes have told Bob Knight they are going in another direction, ESPN.com's Andy Katz reports.

Sources told Katz that Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger called Knight on Thursday and told him that the Buckeyes were going to look elsewhere -- an unusual step, but one that speaks to Knight's status in the coaching fraternity and the incredible amount of alumni pressure to bring Knight back to his alma mater.

The source added that if Geiger had made an offer, Knight would have accepted the position.

Knight released a statement Thursday night saying only that he was told that Ohio State would not be considering him.

"Last night, a friend of mine from Columbus called me to say that the athletic director had decided not to discuss the vacancy with me," Knight said. "Therefore, there was no need for me to consider it."

Knight will now sign the three-year extension with Texas Tech over the next few weeks. He has two years left on his existing contract.

Multiple sources confirmed to Katz that Crean, a former Michigan State assistant, has tremendous support within the Big Ten for the Ohio State job.

Crean probably has reached the pinnacle at Marquette; he coached the Eagles to a Final Four berth in 2003 behind Dwyane Wade. Ohio State has a much more stable future than Marquette, especially with the Eagles moving to the Big East.

However, sources tell Katz that Crean can't afford to be involved in a drawn-out process. If Ohio State wants him, and makes it clear that he can't go after the Michigan State job if Tom Izzo leaves for the NBA at some point, the Buckeyes have to pursue him hard.

Crean got his coaching start at Michigan State in 1989-90 on Jud Heathcote's staff, then went to Western Kentucky as an assistant for four seasons and to Pittsburgh for a year before returning to the Spartans for four seasons. The last two years at Michigan State he was associate head coach before being named Marquette's head coach in March 1999.

Crean issued a statement Saturday saying he felt goaded into clarifying that he isn't seeking the Buckeyes' job.

"Despite what has been reported, I have not made myself a candidate for another opportunity and am happy at Marquette," he said. "The culture of our program is alive and well, and grows daily. I look forward to building on Marquette basketball's outstanding tradition."

Outside of Crean, Ohio State's list of candidates includes former NBA coach and ESPN analyst George Karl, Lakers assistant Jim Cleamons, Rutgers coach Gary Waters, Penn coach Fran Dunphy and possibly Xavier coach Thad Matta.

The Buckeyes are looking for a replacement for Jim O'Brien, fired June 8 after athletic director Andy Geiger said the coach admitted giving $6,000 to a recruit in 1999.

"During the past two weeks, I have called no one nor initiated any inquiries about the basketball coaching position at Ohio State," Knight said. "However, several people in Columbus and in Ohio have called to ask if I would be willing to take the job."

Knight, who won three national championships at Indiana, has led Texas Tech to three straight seasons of at least 20 wins. At 832-323, he is 48 victories shy of Dean Smith's mark as the winningest coach in Division I.

Senior writer Andy Katz covers men's college basketball for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.