Scoonie Penn was a pint-sized dynamo who saw basketball like a coach, comprehending on the court how puzzle pieces fit in real-time game action during two memorable seasons as an Ohio State point guard.
So Penn naturally understands the various ways he can contribute to the Buckeyes in his new role as director of player development, most notably in lending a seasoned voice and sympathetic ears to OSU players.
“I’ve been through it. I know what they’ll be going through on and off the court,” said Penn, co-team MVP when he played for the Buckeyes from 1998 to 2000.
Player mentorship is one reason new coach Chris Holtmann added Penn to his staff on July 11, but the role will have other duties such as helping with camps, overseeing the team’s community service efforts and serving as a liaison to former players.
“This is also great for him too because it gives him an opportunity to transition to a different career,” Holtmann said.
Penn, married with four children, said he had been hesitant about joining a coaching staff full-time after 11 years of playing professionally overseas because of the necessary hours such a job might take him away from his family.
So Penn worked as a commercial account manager at Capital Energy Ohio and dabbled in media roles when his playing career ended. He also conducted a personal youth basketball business, Enhanced Skills Virtual Academy.
Still, the idea of coaching flickered.
Penn occasionally spoke to former OSU coach Thad Matta about possibly joining his staff. After Matta was fired last month, Penn proposed the idea to Holtmann on the day of his introductory news conference June 12, and they had follow-up talks.
NCAA rules about Penn’s staff position prohibit him from participating in practice, as he often did as a non-OSU employee during Matta’s tenure. He will, however, be able to attend practices.
The position also doesn’t allow Penn to recruit off campus, although NCAA rules do permit him to participate in recruiting when a prospect is on OSU’s campus during official and unofficial visits.
“He’s going to get a good idea about what the inner workings of a college basketball program are like, and he’ll certainly make an important contribution to our program,” Holtmann said.
The symbiotic nature of the job excites Penn, a 2013 inductee into the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame.
“I’ve always seen myself as a coach and as a leader,” Penn said. “For me, this role here doesn’t seem like anything new to me. This just gives me an opportunity to learn (about coaching) from the inside.”
Although he can’t recruit him off campus, NCAA rules do permit Penn to attend the games of his son, Dominiq, a highly regarded point guard prospect at Dublin Coffman for the class of 2020. … Holtmann said video coordinator Kyle Davis has been retained in the same staff role. … Holtmann will be a presenter at the USA Basketball Cleveland Coach Academy at St. Edward High School in Lakewood on Aug. 4-6.