Penn leaving OSU to coach for Grizzlies

Adam Jardy
Scoonie Penn, right, was director of player development for Ohio State. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch]

After two seasons as director of player development and recruiting at Ohio State, Scoonie Penn has accepted a job as an assistant coach with the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies.

Penn is one of six assistants announced as new coach Taylor Jenkins has finalized his coaching staff. Penn joins Niele Ivey, Brad Jones, David McClure, Vitaly Potapenko and Neven Spahija in Memphis.

“It gives me great excitement to announce our Memphis Grizzlies coaching staff,” Jenkins said in a statement. “With Niele, Brad, David, Scoonie, Vitaly and Neven, we welcome an experienced group of coaches who have had success at all levels of basketball as both players and coaches. Their experiences at the collegiate, international, G League and NBA levels will benefit everyone in our organization. Above all else, I am thrilled to work with great people who will help build a competitive, unselfish, development-focused, and positive environment for our players.”

After a two-year playing career at Ohio State, Penn undertook an 11-year professional playing career that took him to multiple countries. He was hired by Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann shortly after he took the job during the summer of 2017. His job at Ohio State did not include on-court instruction, however, and in his first yearly performance review Penn made it clear that he desired a coaching job for his future.

"The hard challenge was knowing my limitations with what I can do with my position on staff per NCAA rules," Penn said in his 2017-18 performance evaluation, when asked about what challenges he had faced. "I wanted to help so much more because I have a lot to offer but I just could(n't)."

A job as an assistant coach was listed among Penn's goals. Holtmann described Penn as having had a good first year, adding that "he has a great love and understanding of Ohio State."

“We are really happy for Scoonie,” Holtmann told The Dispatch. “Anytime you see a player or staff member achieve something they have worked towards, it is really exciting, and that has happened with Mike (Schrage) and Scoonie. He made great contributions to an outstanding staff these past two years. We love him and appreciate his work.”

Penn made his presence felt in ways off the court as well. It was his idea for the players to sing the "Buckeye Battle Cry," inside the locker room after wins, and he was the one who led them. Last season, it was Penn's idea for the Buckeyes to wear shirts for Black History Month honoring black inventors.

The news explains Penn’s surprise absence from The Basketball Tournament, where he was slated to coach Carmen’s Crew but was replaced by Jared Sullinger.


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