The task of following a legend is never an easy one and that’s the exactly what Chris Holtmann has in front of him as he officially took the post of head coach of the Ohio State men’s basketball program on Monday. Coach Holtmann will take the reins from Thad Matta, the all time winningest basketball coach in Ohio State history, who accomplished things in his 13 years that no coach before him had done in the long and storied history of Ohio State basketball.
Athletic Director Gene Smith identified Holtmann as his top target right away, but it wasn’t until Smith increased the offer from 7 years to 8, did he accept. "He was my target. He was my target from the very beginning." said Smith. But it wasn’t until a Thursday meeting in Dayton that the two sides came to an agreement.
The expectations are high for Holtmann and he fully understands that. “There’s a passionate fanbase that absolutely loves a winner. You come to a place like this because you understand that expectations come with it and we are not going to shy away from that.” He said he began calling recruits immediately and talked about how important recruiting the state of Ohio would be. "We're going to work extremely hard as a staff to close the border and dominate the state of Ohio in recruiting," he said.
The challenge in the short term will be there with the Buckeyes coming off a tough, 17-15 season that saw no post season appearance and offseason defections that have left the program with just 9 players. "We have a tremendous work ahead of us," Holtmann said. He will bring a tough, defense first style of play but he wants to give his guys the freedom to just “go out there and cut loose and play.”
While there has been nothing official, Holtmann is expected to bring his entire staff with him to Columbus, Mike Schrage, Terry Johnson, and Bexley native, Ryan Pedon. There is also a real chance Kyle Young, a 4 star recruit, and second rated prospect in Ohio behind incoming Buckeye freshman Kaleb Wesson, will follow Holtmann to Columbus. Young chose Butler over Ohio State and Purdue among others but has yet to enroll so he can come to Columbus and be eligible immediately.
So a new era begins while another one ends and I would be remiss if I did not mention Thad Matta, who in 13 years took this program to heights it hadn’t seen since the glory days of Fred Taylor. Beyond the 2 Final Fours, the Big Ten Championships, Big Ten Tournament titles and sweet 16’s, Coach Matta did it the right way. As much as I disagree with the way it was handled ultimately, it’s hard to argue that it wasn’t time. For a myriad of reasons, the results have not lived up to the standards that Thad himself had set. He became a victim of his own success to some extent and suffered a fate that most in this business face. However, all Buckeye fans owe a great deal of thanks for what he did for this program and great university. Coach Matta gave Buckeye fans plenty to cheer about over a very memorable 13 years and for that he will be missed. So, thank you Coach Matta for the great memories and the class you carried yourself with right until the end of your tenure.
Now, let the Chris Holtmann era begin and with a very important recruiting class upcoming, let’s hope he can keep this in state talent home and get this program back where it belongs, in the NCAA tournament and at the top of the Big Ten Standings.
- Jason Harris