Wednesday, June 9, 2004

O'Brien fired by Ohio State

Basketball coach admits to giving $6,000 to recruit Radojevic five years ago

Enquirer and wire reports

COLUMBUS - Ohio State fired basketball coach Jim O'Brien on Tuesday after he admitted giving a recruit $6,000 five years ago.

Athletic director Andy Geiger said he offered O'Brien the opportunity to resign but the coach refused to step down.

"I am troubled that a rule was admittedly violated and it took us five years to find out about it," Geiger said.

In a statement released through his attorney, O'Brien did not dispute that he helped potential recruit Aleksandar Radojevic.

"I am advised that my firing is because I was asked to and tried to give assistance to a young man's family who was in dire financial straits," said O'Brien, who was 133-88 in seven seasons as Ohio State's coach. "The assistance in no way influenced the young man in his decision to attend OSU and, indeed, the young man did not enroll at OSU."

Geiger would not say whether the money was O'Brien's or came from another source.

"My understanding is it was not the school's," Geiger said.

Radojevic, a 7-foot-3 center from Yugoslavia, was recruited and signed by O'Brien. Before he ever played for Ohio State, however, the NCAA ruled he was ineligible for accepting $13,000 from a professional team in Europe.

Radojevic then entered the NBA draft and was taken with the No. 12 pick by the Toronto Raptors. He played for Denver and Milwaukee before being cut by the Bucks in 2001.

Ohio State learned of O'Brien's payment to Radojevic through a lawsuit against O'Brien by a woman who said she provided housing, meals and clothes for another Ohio State recruit, Slobodan Savovic, from the same war-torn area. He played four years with the Buckeyes, including the team that made the 1999 Final Four under O'Brien.

Geiger said he had asked O'Brien about the lawsuit and was told it was a minor problem and would go away. On April 24, Geiger said O'Brien told him that depositions in the lawsuit would reveal the payment made to Radojevic.

Geiger said he had asked O'Brien whether the coach was aware he had violated NCAA rules.

"He admitted he knew that he did," Geiger said.

Kay Hawes, an associate director of media relations with the NCAA, said O'Brien and Ohio State are being investigated.

O'Brien's contract - which paid him more than $850,000 per year - specifies that the university can fire him for any NCAA violations.

Geiger said associate head coach Rick Boyages would take over on an interim basis. reported that Xavier coach Thad Matta is a candidate for the Ohio State job. Matta did not return a message left on his cell phone Tuesday and declined to comment on Ohio State through Xavier spokesman Tom Eiser, saying he is focused on Xavier and the up-coming summer recruiting period.

The Web site also mentions North Carolina State coach Herb Sendek, formerly of Miami University, as a potential replacement for O'Brien.

O'Brien is 368-305 in 22 years as a head coach.

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