Ohio Men’s Basketball: Boals Introduced as ‘Cats 19th Head Coach

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ATHENS, OH — When Jeff Boals left Ohio University in the spring of 1996 for an assistant coaching position at the University of Charleston in West Virginia, he couldn’t have known his coaching career would lead him back to Athens.

But after a 23-year, six stop journey that led him from Columbus to Long Island and many places in between, Boals was standing in front of the media and his family holding up a white Ohio jersey with the number 45 on it, his old number, as the 19th Ohio men’s basketball coach.

I’m extremely honored and gratefully humbled to be back home. I think when I walked into the Convocation Center and looked up and saw the rafters, saw the banners, saw seats, and it brought back a flood of memories. A lot of them positive, a couple negative, but seeing the banners and the Convocation Center floor — there’s no better place,” Boals said. “I took a moment and looked around and smiled, thought about the good times and bad times and really how that shaped me who I am today.”

Boals, introduced Monday morning, is the first head coach to also be a former Bobcat player since Dale Bandy helmed the team from 1974-1980.

“Jeff checked all the boxes and fit all the criteria that we had. I would say that one of the things that was exciting about the process was we got to take a look at in what we wanted in a new head coach. We were able to obtain those things, but we got some bonuses along the way,” Ohio Athletic Director Jim Schaus said. “We were able to get someone that is an Ohioan, an Ohio University graduate, and played on the men’s basketball team during one of the greatest eras in school history. I’d say that’s a pretty good deal.”

When Boals played for the Bobcats between 1991 and 1995, he never averaged more than 7.5 points per game, but yet was voted a captain twice by his teammates. Now, however, he has another group of Bobcats to win over: the team he is set to coach.

With 13 players scheduled to return for the 2019-20 season, Boals knows that his most important task over the coming weeks and months is to get those players to buy into his message.

“There’s a trust factor. I need to earn their trust, and we need to get together. I’ll sit down individually with them and rehash some of their thoughts and what’s important to them. Find out what their individual goals are and what their team goals are,” Boals said. “The biggest thing is to show them that you care and show them that you love them. I want them to understand that I’m their head coach and that we’re in this together.”

All of the players on the team were recruited or brought onto the team by former head coach Saul Phillips, so there will certainly be bridges that have to be built to keep all of those players in Athens for this season and the years to come.

Boals is also being trusted to bring a program, that had been historically a MAC power, back to prominence. Over the past two seasons, the Bobcats are just 28-34 and 13-23 in conference play. The consecutive 14-17 records overall represent the first time that Ohio has had two consecutive sub-.500 seasons since 2002-03 and 2003-04.

“Winning is tough. There’s no magic pill or secret formula to do it. It’s a lot of hard work and a lot of belief. A lot of it depends on the leader and how you get everyone on the same page. It’s tough to win. You have to be prepared. You have to organized. If you play hard and play together, a lot of times, good things will happen,” Boals said. “I’ve followed Ohio University for the last 24 years. I’ve always been a Bobcat, and I’ve always been a fan,

“I thought Saul (Phillips) did a phenomenal job. Injuries obviously played a course in a lot of their seasons. There’s different things that happened that you can’t control,” Boals added. “I always tell the guys to control what you can. That’s your attitude, your actions and your effort.”

Willing the Bobcats back to the top of the MAC after two years in the conference’s basement will be no easy task for Boals, but the 46-year old couldn’t let this opportunity pass by without jumping on it.

“It’s hard to believe it’s come full circle…I am honored and humbled to be the 19th head coach at Ohio University, my alma mater. I take that with great pride. There’s going to be no one more passionate than me serving this community and serving our student-athletes to be productive citizens in life. I’ve been on Court Street, I’ve been in James Hall, Sargent Hall. Maybe a little too much. I know what these guys are going through,” Boals said. “It’s different in coaching than when you played, but when you play, where they’re at, I think that’s a special thing. It’s always been a dream of mine, since I started to coaching, to come back and be the head coach.”