It turns out that Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith only had to look 180 miles west for the school’s new men’s basketball head coach. On Friday morning Smith announced Chris Holtmann, up until today Butler’s head coach, to the same position in Columbus. He begins the Buckeye rebuild immediately.
In the wake of Thad Matta departing the program a bevy of wish list names made the rounds online: Brad Stevens, Billy Donovan, Fred Hoiberg, and even Sean Miller. These never seemed viable, and the Holtmann pickup makes much more sense for Ohio State’s needs.
Holtmann led the Butler Bulldogs to the NCAA Tournament each of the past three seasons. His teams twice reached the Round of 32 and last season the Sweet Sixteen. He accrued a 70-31 (34-20 Big East) record during his tenure. Buckeye fans will be happy to hear he is more than acquainted with recruiting in Ohio. From 2008-10 he served as an assistant coach at Ohio University, and his Butler teams each had at least one Ohioan on the roster. Perhaps just as importantly he is a well-known commodity in basketball-mad Indiana which has produced some memorable Buckeyes in the past (Greg Oden among others).
Holtmann was raised in Nicholasville, Kentucky and played his college ball at Taylor University. He has been coaching since 1998 with stops at Geneva, Taylor, Gardner-Webb, Ohio, and Butler. While Butler may not have the size or resources of Ohio State, playing in the Big East should have prepared Holtmann for major conference play. Last season Holtmann’s Bulldogs defeated No. 8 Arizona, No. 22 Cincinnati, No. 9 Indiana, No. 1 Villanova, No. 15 Xavier, and No. 2 Villanova (on the road).
Holtmann inherits a roster full of holes after the departures of senior Marc Loving, junior Trevor Thompson, and sophomore JaQuan Lyle. The incoming class of 2017 so far consists of Westerville center Kaleb Wessen and Hazard (KY) point guard Braxton Beverly. The Buckeyes may now also be in contention for Jackson HS forward Kyle Young. A four star prospect out of Massillon, he committed to Butler last August so it’ll be interesting to monitor how Holtmann’s defection to Young’s home state affects his destination.
Holtmann has large shoes to fill. Despite his disappointing finish, Thad Matta leaves Ohio State’s bench with a litany of school records and a shadow a mile long. Holtmann has a strong resume on the court and off, and he figures to bring the OSU program back to life. His may not be the biggest name in the coaching landscape, but it appears to be the perfect one for Ohio State basketball.