COLUMBUS — Ohio State officially introduced Chris Holtmann as its new head men’s basketball coach on Monday. Holtmann and OSU athletics director Gene Smith spoke with the media and answered plenty of questions about the future of Buckeye basketball. Here are the highlights.
Chris Holtmann and Gene Smith
+ Gene Smith began by saying he was delighted to be introducing Chris Holtmann as the new head coach. He thanked OSU president Drake for his guidance. Smith also thanked a few others behind the scenes for their support as well. He also said he would be remiss by not mentioning the outstanding work by his administrative team.
+ Smith said he promised the basketball team that they would get this selection right. He thanked them for their patience. “The 2017-2018 season will be a year of transition that requires all of us to be patient.”
+ As the search process went on, Chris Hotlmann emerged as Ohio State’s No. 1 candidate. He is a relentless recruiter, a winner, a community engager who fits the culture, and is focused on academics.
+ Holtmann’s first words: “Wow. What an honor to be in front of you today. I can’t tell you how excited I am.”
+ Holtmann’s wife and daughter, parents, mother and father-in-law, and his brother were also in attendance.
+ He thanked president Drake and Gene Smith for their faith and trust in him. Smith was persistent and aggressive in his approach.
+ There is work ahead of the team, but the combination of the education and the athletic department and this basketball program, with this location and the state of Ohio, as well as a passionate fan base, this entire combination “was simply too hard to pass up.”
+ The current players were in attendance as well.
+ Holtmann came over on Friday to speak with the team and spend some time with them. “I was really, really impressed.”
+ Holtmann thanked his college coach Paul Patterson, as well as John Groce, Brad Stevens, Brandon Miller, and athletic directors like Butler’s Barry Collier. “It was a really, really special last three years.”
+ “I also want to thank Coach Matta.” Thad is a friend and it speaks to his character that the helped in this process. It was important that he had Matta’s blessing. Matta went above and beyond in helping Holtmann come to Ohio State.
+ The players said they love when former players come back around. In special programs, players realize that they are a part of something bigger, and something great. So he wants to continue to encourage former Buckeyes to come back and spend time with the team. “We want them around as much as they want to be around. We have complete open doors. I cannot wait to meet them all. We are absolutely indebted to them. To all of them, I want to say thank you. We are going to work extremely hard to make you guys proud.”
+ The players asked him what the goals will be for this team next year. One of his mottos is, “Do today well.” That will be their goal from day one. Be in discipline to doing today well, that is goal No. 1.
+ Part of “doing today well” is recruiting well, and they will be hitting Ohio hard. “I’ve recruited Ohio for over 20 years, and it has outstanding players and coaches. It will be paramount to our success, no question. We’re going to work extremely hard to close the borders.”
+ There’s nothing better than seeing young people reaching their dreams. The coaching staff is dedicated to enhancing the entire person. Getting them to reach the best versions of themselves.
+ Friday was an emotional day. He received a text from a national title-winning coach who does it the right way. That coach said, “Be yourself, it’s plenty good enough.”
+ If you see him at a grocery story or out about town, he can’t wait to meet the fans. “We can’t wait to get started. Go Bucks.”
+ Asked why this was the right fit, he said it was definitely something he had to deliberate on. He’s had other offers, but this was the only one that he has actually considered. The vision that Gene Smith had was enough to win him over.
+ Asked what he said he told the recruiting class that he left at Butler, he said he didn’t want to get into those questions today.
+ As soon as he had his contract signed and was allowed to make recruiting calls, he was doing it within the hour. Right now he’s focused on Ohio, but they’ll spread out from there.
+ Gene Smith’s commitment was important. Holtmann took a step back a time or two during the negotiations.
+ “We’re going to build an incredible staff.” This will take place in the coming days or possibly weeks. The wheels are in motion but he can’t speak to anything specifically.
+ Holtmann will have help catching up in recruiting this July because he works at Ohio State and people know OSU. “I think we’ll have a great opportunity with the young kids. We’ll catch up, I promise you that.”
+ “We’re going to get to work.” The reason you come to Ohio State is because it comes with expectations. They’re not going to shy away from that. This is a program that is used to competing for championships.
+ You never know what your path will look like as a coach, so you just try to put in quality work and see where it takes you.
+ The state of the OSU basketball program is good. “We have to work some to do.” The reason he is excited is because of the players already on the team. What he has heard from those who know them is what gets him excited. They’ll work every day to play in the NCAA Tournament, but there’s no timetable that he’s putting on it.
+ He has gotten to know Thad Matta over the last few years. He has always respected how he’s done things and how he’s been able to do it the right way. “When I think of Thad, I think of a guy who loves his players and did it the right way.”
+ Expect aggressive, attacking, physical basketball. Tough and tough-minded. They want the guys to play with freedome. “Cut loose and play.”
+ “I love it. I love it.” — on coming to a “football school.” “It was exciting to me, to be honest with you.” Urban Meyer has already reached out to him. Being a football school was nothing but a positive for him.
+ “I think I have a pretty good feel for our rival.” He’s followed OSU and the B1G from a distance. You can’t coach in this state and not have a feel for what’s going on at Ohio State. He’s pretty well versed in Ohio State’s basketball history. He’s watched the current players played and he’s followed their paths. It means a ton to him that they are there with him today.
+ He was contacted on Tuesday morning about the job. Since that point, it has been a blur for him. That’s why he put everything aside on Friday and he came over to spend time with the team. The team is the important stuff and he needed to focus on that for a time. Saturday was a lot of phone calls to former players and people at Ohio State, as well as recruits. Sunday they came over to Columbus. They were originally supposed to go on vacation to Hilton Head this past weekend.
+ He wants to put a really challenging non-conference schedule together. “That’s something I believe in.” There is risk there, but he’s okay with that. The players want it too. “We want to test ourselves.” That’s the direction he anticipates going.
+ The mood in the room meeting the players was great. The energy was high. There was a good dialogue. They were trying to feel him out. It won’t happen overnight. They’ll spend a lot of time together collectively, then also a lot of one-on-one time together. “They’re excited about what’s ahead and I just cannot wait to get working.”
+ Gene Smith took the stage again to explain the search. When he met with Thad Matta on Friday June 2, he did not anticipate coming to the decision to fire Matta. The focus on last week’s press conference with Thad Matta was on doing it the right way on Matta’s behalf and honoring him. Immediately after that press conference, Smith and Eddie Fogler began to vet his list. As they vetted, Chris Holtmann was clearly the target as of Monday night. They offered the job on Tuesday. There was trepidation.
+ It was initially a seven-year contract, but then Smith went up to eight years. Six years was never on the table. The contract is still being worked out. Holtmann needed to think and Smith needed to keep working. They met again on Thursday morning in Dayton. They sat and had a great conversation and Holtmann accepted the offer. That was the entire process. “That was as swift and as fast as I could move.” His most important concern was the players and keeping his promise to move quickly.