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A Jent of Gents: Former Buckeye, NBA coach joins Ohio State’s coaching staff

After securing what Thad Matta called the biggest recruit he’s ever gone after, the Ohio State basketball program introduced former Buckeye player and NBA coach Chris Jent as the latest addition to the OSU’s coaching staff on Wednesday.

A native of Sparta, N.J., Jent scored 1,007 career points and was a part of two Big Ten championship teams at OSU from 1988-92. He will fill the opening on Matta’s staff that was created when former assistant coach Brandon Miller resigned two weeks ago to spend more time with his family.

Jent said that there were multiple factors he considered before taking the job at OSU.

“It was definitely two-headed,” Jent said. “The pull to the university and also to work with coach Matta and his staff allows me to expand my experience in coaching. The fact that it’s my alma mater and a place I have a strong tie to, a strong gut feeling towards, and a great amount of passion to, made it easy.”

Jent leaves behind him an assistant coaching and director of player development position with the Cleveland Cavaliers. While in Cleveland, Jent also served as a personal shooting coach to two-time NBA MVP LeBron James.

Matta said that he expects Jent’s relationship with the former Cavaliers star to work to his advantage as he will be attempting to recruit players for the first time in his career.

“It’s no secret that Chris was one of the best in the NBA at making players better,” Matta said. “I don’t know if I could have got anybody better in the country than what he’s going to bring to the table in that regard.”

When Jent’s playing career at OSU ended in 1992, the 6-foot-7 Jent played professionally in the Continental Basketball Association and in Spain before he was signed by the NBA’s Houston Rockets in 1994. Jent won the 1994 NBA title later that season.

After playing in a combined 14 regular season and playoff games for the Rockets, Jent returned to the CBA, and also played professionally in Australia and Italy before returning to the NBA when he signed with the New York Knicks in 1997.

Jent played in three games for the Knicks and ended his playing career in 2001 after additional stints in Italy, Greece, and the United States Basketball League.

Jent signed on to become an assistant coach with the Philadelphia 76ers for the 2000–04 NBA season before taking a similar role with Orlando Magic in 2004–05. Jent compiled a 5–13 record as the interim head coach of the Magic after former head coach Johnny Davis was fired.

Following his lone season with the Magic, Jent returned to Columbus to complete his degree at OSU. It was there that he first met Matta, and served as an unofficial assistant to the team.

Jent said that he walked away from OSU impressed by the culture that Matta had created around the program in just his second year as the Buckeyes’ head coach.

“At that time, I saw a group of driven individuals that really cared for one another,” Jent said. “Ten kids were in uniform and none of them missed a practice. They didn’t miss one practice. And that just showed how much they care for another.”

Jent said that leaving Cleveland for his alma mater and the two-time defending Big Ten champions was a tough call.

“Outside of real life decisions, this is the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make,” Jent said. “Loved every day I went to work (in Cleveland). For me to leave that, it could only have been this type of situation.”

Dan Wallenberg, spokesman for OSU athletics, confirmed to The Lantern that Jent’s contract is not complete.

The Buckeyes have not released their schedule for the upcoming season.


Tyler Robinson contributed to this article. 

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