On Point Jeff Boals
Last year Jeff Boals stood on the sidelines of the Superdome basking in an environment that all coaches and players aspire to reach at some point in their college career, the Final Four. His long path from a small town standout to a gritty college player took him up the coaching ladder through mid-majors and guided him to basketball’s greatest stage. As an assistant coach at Ohio State since 2009, this is where Boals wants to take the team every year, and the experience blew him away.
“It’s one of those experiences that not many people get to do,” Boals says. “To be on a stage like that and play in front of 75,000 people, it’s a phenomenal feeling. Obviously it didn’t end well, but only one team can win it all. The tough thing about it though, is as a coach, once you get there, you just want to do it again and again and again.”
As a player at Ohio University, Boals’ team won the MAC tournament in 1995 to gain a birth in the NCAA tournament, but that was the closest he came to the Final Four as a player. As a biology major, he never really saw coaching as something that he wanted to do until an ACL injury in his senior year made him see things differently. His coach at the time gave him more of a coaching role, and then he got an angle on the profession that appealed to him. He must have been naturally
good at it, because the coach offered him an assistant position the following year, and he’s been at it ever since.
“I was always a coach-on-the-floor type of player,” Boals says. “I wasn’t the most athletic guy, so I had to rely on my toughness and just being physical and using my IQ for the game. Just like any guy, I had aspirations to play in the NBA or overseas, but when I got hurt, I kind of saw the behind-the-scenes coaching aspect.”
His career started at OU, and through hard work and networking, he moved up the ranks gaining experience at mid-majors until Thad Matta hired him onto Ohio State to work with the post players and be the recruiting coordinator for the team. Watching guys like David Lighty, Jon Diebler and Jared Sullinger come into their own is just one of the rewards to coaching for him.
“As a coach, you wear many different hats: a psychologist, a mentor, you’re a father figure sometimes, a disciplinarian, a teacher,” Boals says. “That’s the neat thing about coaching, that you can have an impact on these players’ lives.”
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