It appears Ohio State has its new head coach. Reports surfaced on Friday morning that Butler head coach Chris Holtmann has agreed to an eight year, $3 million per season deal to take over the same position at Ohio State.
The official press conference to unveil Holtmann as Ohio State’s next head coach will be on Monday at 11 a.m. And this, in my opinion, is a great hire for the Buckeyes.
The move comes only a few days after the program parted ways with its all-time winningest coach Thad Matta, and one day after Creighton head coach Greg McDermott turned down the position.
The decision to move on from Matta was a head scratcher mainly because of the timing. However, with the hire of Holtmann, it appears Ohio State made the right decision and instantly became a better program. The results might not be noticed right away since this roster took a huge hit this offseason, but the program will surely benefit from this hire down the line.
This is a slam dunk hire for Ohio State for three key reasons: proven success, recruiting ties to the area, and the fresh start it’ll give the program. And let’s also throw in that he’s only 45 years old and can be on the Buckeyes’ bench for a long time, if successful.
When Holtmann takes over in Columbus, it’ll be his third different head coaching job with a positive track record in his previous two stops. He holds a 114-85 overall record in six seasons as a head coach, and is most known for his work at Butler.
At Butler, Holtmann led the Bulldogs to the NCAA Tournament in each of his three seasons as the head coach with a 70-31 record. This past year was his best, guiding Butler to a 25-9 record and Sweet 16 appearance.
Prior to his days in Indianapolis, Holtmann was the head man on Gardner-Webb’s bench for three seasons. He inherited a tough situation, so his record doesn’t do him justice — 44-54 in three seasons — but in his final season he led the Runnin’ Bulldogs to a school-record 21 victories. That’s a 13-win improvement from when he took over the program.
Winning at a mid-major/smaller program opens doors for coaches, but it doesn’t always translate to the next level. Recruiting is key for a coach like Holtmann to be successful in the Big Ten and I believe he’ll be successful in that category. He has ties to the midwest and has experienced plenty of success on the recruiting trail with Butler.
Based on 247Sports recruiting rankings, Holtmann has only signed three star or better recruits while with Butler, and his crown jewel recruit is an Ohio native in four-star Kyle Young of the 2017 class. He beat out Ohio State for Young so it’s fair to say Holtmann can recruit. And it’ll get easier to recruit at a nationally known program like Ohio State.
One final key component I like about Holtmann is the fresh look he’ll bring to the program. Matta achieved a lot with Ohio State, but it just felt like it was time for a move.
When the original wish list for Ohio State came out, many were skeptical. Not that the list wasn’t good enough but that it was unrealistic. Billy Donovan, Brad Stevens, Sean Miller and Jay Wright highlighted the list of top candidates so when you look at Holtmann landing the job you might not be as excited.
But for where Ohio State is right now, this is an A+ hire.
The Buckeyes need someone to come in and jumpstart this program that has slowly gone downhill since its Final Four run in 2012. Holtmann doesn’t have the same prestige as some of those guys mentioned on the original wish list, but he has the tools to be just as successful.
He continued to keep Butler on the national scene even after Stevens left, and with more resources and a national brand at Ohio State, the sky's the limit.
It won’t be an overnight fix, but I’m confident that, over time, Holtmann will bring Ohio State back into the Big Ten’s upper tier. He’s done it everywhere else so you can bet on it again in Columbus.