COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -During his 22 years as a college head coach, friends, players and adversaries always remarked about how dedicated Jim O'Brien was to the game of basketball.
Now he's not so sure.
``Coaching has been what I've done, it's been a major part of my life - and it was kind of snatched away from me,'' he said Wednesday. ``I'm still trying to put all the pieces together and I'm trying to really get a good grasp of what it is that I want to do. It's hard to all of a sudden say you have no interest in college basketball.''
The Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to hear Ohio State's appeal of a lawsuit O'Brien filed against the university after he was fired in the wake of his revelation that he had given $6,000 to a recruit. Ohio State lost the case in which O'Brien stands to gain $2.7 million to $3 million from the university.
``The outcome of this case is disappointing news, as universities such as Ohio State hold themselves to the highest possible standards and take appropriate action after discovering NCAA violations,'' Ohio State spokesman Jim Lynch said in a statement.
O'Brien, a raspy-voiced Brooklyn native, coached St. Bonaventure and his alma mater, Boston College, before coming to Ohio State in 1997. He led the Buckeyes for seven years, going 133-88 (although the NCAA later ruled that using an ineligible player left his mark at 51-57).
He was abruptly fired on June 8, 2004, after telling then-athletic director Andy Geiger about what he termed a humanitarian loan to a recruit who never even enrolled at Ohio State.
O'Brien said he has done little else over the past 3 1/2 years but fight Ohio State and the NCAA, which all but prevented other universities from hiring him to coach. In fewer than three weeks, any sanctions will be lifted and he could return to the sidelines.
Asked if he regretted anything during his seven years in Columbus, he paused briefly.
``I have regrets as to how this whole thing got played out,'' he said. ``I'm thrilled that I went to Ohio State, I'm thrilled that I lived in Columbus for seven years and that I had the opportunity that I had. It's just disappointing that it turned out the way it did. But I would not change any of it with regard to the opportunity to experience what I experienced.''
Since being fired he has worked as a college basketball analyst for a cable network, but he's not so certain whether he will continue to work in broadcasting. He became a grandfather a year ago and that takes up some of his time. He lives in Boston and remains in contact with numerous close friends back in Ohio and many of his former players.
Two players he recruited to Ohio State - seniors Jamar Butler and Matt Terwilliger - still play for the Buckeyes. O'Brien said he follows their careers and is proud of their accomplishments even though he has not watched ``one second'' of a Buckeyes game since leaving town.
He feels a need to defend his reputation and his program after the NCAA found a former player received improper benefits and ordered Ohio State to wipe away any reference to the 1999 team making it to the Final Four.
O'Brien raised his voice as he pointed out that ``yes, there was a team that recently went to the Final Four before the team that did it last year.''
He will turn 58 on April 9. Winning his lawsuit will likely set him up for a cozy retirement, if he should decide to go in that direction.
Asked how much he will end up getting after paying a percentage to his lawyers, O'Brien laughed and said, ``I have no idea. Whatever it is, it's going to be good though.''
Still, he knows that his name will forever be linked with NCAA violations.
``Yes, I'm thrilled that that's all behind me, but there is still a little bit of this stigma about what happened,'' he said. ``In all honesty the most disappointing thing was how my character was being attacked and that's the thing that hurts every bit as much as everything else.''

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