Chris Holtmann spoke for approximately 28 minutes on Monday in his first meeting with the media as Ohio State’s new men’s head basketball coach. It was one of his first steps toward renewing a basketball program that was in desperate need of some rejuvenation.
Over those 28 minutes, Holtmann thanked people, talked about his excitement level, engaged in copious amounts of coachspeak, and also said a few things that should have Buckeye fans looking forward to the future.
What stood out to me while watching?
1. Recruiting is about to pick up again.
Be it for health reasons or just reasons, Thad Matta’s recruiting was dipping at the end. That can happen over time, and Jim Tressel wasn’t immune to it either. With Chris Holtmann now in charge, everything gets re-energized. Ohio State will reintroduce themselves to high schools throughout the state, as well as the AAU circuit that actually delivers players to the colleges seeking them out. I don’t think you need to work extremely hard to recruit well at Ohio State, but you still need to work hard. And it won’t just be Holtmann, it will be a new staff out and about selling something new, which will bring a completely different energy to the product.
2. Former players will continue to be welcomed.
Thad Matta did this as well, but like everything in the later years, it feels like the emphasis and energy put forward toward making it happen had dwindled. Matta has a number of players in the NBA and overseas, and as we’ve seen with the football program, this is a huge recruiting tool just asking for something to fix. But it’s not just about being a recruiting tool. The current players themselves told him they enjoyed it when former players come back. There are plenty of reasons to choose a school, and for most, one of those reasons is history. The more you can keep your history in the present day, the more the current players will want to return as well. This is how a new coach builds his own program.
3. “Do today well.”
Every coach has their mantras. For Urban Meyer, he’s got “4-to-6, A-to-B”, and several others. Chris Holtmann revealed one of his favorites on Monday, and that was “Do today well.” Asked about expectations for a return to the NCAA Tournament, he wasn’t interested in looking that far ahead because each day is enough of a workload in itself. The thought process is that if you handle that day well, then the big picture eventually comes into focus. So while the goal will be championships, the method for getting there will be about doing each day well.
4. The all-encompassing approach.
Like Urban Meyer and the football program with Real Life Wednesdays and their outside-of-sports approach, Chris Holtmann is interested in developing the entire person. If you are recruiting well, however, that can almost be a “waste of time” considering you might only have those players for one or two years. Given the impact it has had on Ohio State’s football recruiting — you can’t talk to the 2017 signees or the 2018 commits without them talking about OSU’s plans for them after football — it makes sense that basketball would at least try doing something similar. Could it be the difference in landing a one-and-done prospect who is also considering Michigan State or Duke? Maybe, maybe not. But it could be the difference in getting the right kinds of 4-year players that every program needs.
5. Embracing life at a football school.
Even as the question was being asked, Holtmann was nodding in anticipation of his answer about being the basketball coach at a football school. It was something that he was clearly okay with. Some coaches can get annoyed or cranky when their sport is deemed to be in the shadows of other sports — like former OSU women’s basketball coach Jim Foster. Other coaches — like men’s volleyball coach Pete Hanson or women’s basketball coach Kevin McGuff — firmly grasp the umbrella of being at a program where football is king. They all use it to their benefit, and Chris Holtmann will do the same. After all, Buckeye football is a tremendous recruiting tool, and that’s without a basketball prospect ever even stepping a single foot into Ohio Stadium.