Hooley: Hoping Holtmann proves The Man with OSU

Chris Holtmann is getting an 8-year contract at $3 million per-year to coach at Ohio State

Without first-hand knowledge of a coach's ability, I bow to the expertise of friends who have it.

And so I'm initially optimistic about the hiring of Chris Holtmann at Ohio State.

Both Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports and Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star joined 1057 The Zone on Friday morning to speak positively about Holtmann, the 45-year-old, six-year head coach from Gardner-Webb and Butler University who's agreed to an eight-year contract at OSU.

Holtmann's resume will allow Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith to win the introductory press conference that will take place on campus later this weekend.

Holtmann has taken Butler to three straight NCAA Tournaments, won his first-round game every year and is the reigning Big East coach-of-the-year.

Today's Big East isn't the Jim Boeheim, John Thompson, Lou Carnesecca juggernaut of yesteryear, but winning at Butler now is infinitely tougher than it was when Matta parlayed it into the Xavier job and then hopped to OSU 13 years ago.

Holtmann went 25-9 this past season with a team that lost its two top players from the previous year. He coached Butler to the Sweet Sixteen and won games against Villanova twice, Xavier twice, Arizona, Indiana, Cincinnati and Northwestern.

That's what will be expected of him at OSU, where Holtmann lacks not one single thing to win a national championship. The Buckeyes have the budget, the facilities, the recruiting base, the league affiliation and the brand to build on the foundation Matta established.

Before we move on to Holtmann, it's worth thanking Thad once again for proving to the coaching profession that OSU basketball could exist aside King Football and not suffer from the association.

All those years under Eldon Miller, Gary Williams, Randy Ayers and Jim O'Brien when OSU hoops would rise and fall like a roller-coaster became a thing of the past with Matta getting to seven straight NCAA Tournaments, a national championship game, two Final Fours and regular Big Ten regular-season and tournament titles.

There's only one spot left vacant in the trophy case for Holtmann to fill, so it's time for him to get to work on filling it.

He can do that by hiring a robust staff that salvages what is a monster year for in-state talent. Former OSU commit Darius Bazley may not be get-able with a mulligan, given his AAU team-hopping and the shoe company affiliations with those squads that suggest Bazley is headed for one of two programs that habitually steer players to those shoe company's teams and then, presto, flip their commitments.

But Jerome Hunter of Pickerington North needs to wind up at Ohio State, not Michigan, when the fall signing period dawns.

Likewise, Jeremiah Francis of Pick Central and Dominiq Penn of Dublin Coffman need to become a future Buckeyes' backcourt.

That's how Holtmann can send a strong message that the door swings open only when he says it does if Ohio's prep talent even thinks about playing elsewhere.

Make no mistake, the standard for Holtmann's success at OSU is not simply bettering the 38-29 record under Matta the past two seasons or simply getting to the NCAA Tournament.

The standard is how Holtmann fares against Archie Miller, and how the Buckeyes compare against Indiana, in competition on and off the floor over the next decade.

Doyel told us Friday on The Zone that, "Archie wanted Ohio State. A year ago, Ohio State was Archie's dream job. Had Ohio State and Indiana been open at the same time, I suspect Archie would have gone to Ohio State."

Miller, who went to IU from Dayton, was available in March when the season ended. Smith waited to fire Matta until early June, however, and instead let Miller walk to Bloomington.

Holtmann may prove the better hire.

I certainly hope so.

And Smith better hope so, too.


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