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Chris Holtmann has brought excitement to Columbus, but who is the Ohio State coach?

The Buckeye head coach may be young, but he has proven his ability to lead a successful basketball program.

After 13 years of the Thad Matta era in Columbus, the Ohio State men’s basketball team was handed over to a young Chris Holtmann in 2017. He didn’t have anything approaching a full offseason to prepare his new team, but the Buckeyes went 25-9 and made it back to the NCAA Tournament.

Now in his second year, Holtmann has fully invested in bringing the basketball program back to the forefront of students’ and fans’ minds, in what had become a solely football-focused group over the past few years. He’s signed an eight-year deal with Ohio State, but if his first season in Columbus was any indication, it’s a good thing that OSU locked him up longterm.

What does he bring to Ohio State?

The head coach is an exciting guy to get behind. He’s embraced everything that comes along with leading a bunch of Buckeyes, including adopting some of the traditions instituted by Urban Meyer, and forming a bond with the football program (you can never have too many recruiting edges these days).

And it isn’t just football, he supports many of the Ohio State teams throughout the year, and embraces the basketball program’s alumni too. Maintaining a relationship with former Buckeye stars goes a long way in recruiting and establishing a rapport with the history of the program.

Twice now, Holtmann has had lunch at Raising Canes and invited students to come through on his tab.

He’s encouraged new fan and student promotions, including having open practices and student appreciation games, and is trying to make meaningful connections between the team and the community.

All of this is to say that he’s a guy who understands that what happens on the court is only part of creating a winning culture. It’s those little things that seemed to be missing in the latter years of the Thad Matta era, but Holtmann has embraced everything that it means to coach at one of the largest, and most passionate, universities in the country.

How much coaching experience does he have?

Holtmann is going on 20 years as a men’s basketball coach, starting as an assistant with Geneva College, before working as an assistant at Taylor University — where he was also a GA — from 1999-2003.

He then spent five seasons at Gardner-Webb, four of which he served as associate head coach, before joining former Ohio State assistant coach John Groce at Ohio University as an assistant from 2008-2010.

And then he made the jump to head coach.

He returned to Garner-Webb in his first trip as the top man, and led a rebuilding effort through 2013 — a season in which Holtmann was named district and conference coach of the year. From there it was a hop, skip and a jump from Butler assistant to head coach, and then to Columbus.

What were some of his successes at Butler?

At Butler, he quickly became known as an excellent recruiter, and in 2014-15 — his first season as head coach — Butler finished 23-11 and tied for second place in the Big East. He was named a finalist for both the Naismith National Coach of the Year Award and the Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year Award after his first year with the Bulldogs.

Holtmann’s second season at Butler wasn’t quite as successful, going 22-11, but 10-8 in conference play led to a fourth place finish. It was the second year in a row that Holtmann’s team had won a game in the NCAA Tournament, before getting knocked out in the Round of 32. The team did, however, rank as high as ninth during the 2015-16 season.

The head coach’s most successful season was right before he moved to Columbus, guiding the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and another second-place finish in the Big East. Holtmann’s squad also made it all the way to the Sweet 16 during March Madness that season.

He’s developing relationships with Ohio schools

Recruiting is a big part of coaching at a gigantic university, and especially for Ohio State, getting kids from the state of Ohio is always a priority. One of the ways that coaches often develop relationships with high school coaches is via coaching clinics, something Holtmann has started doing this year.

However, this is not strictly a recruiting ploy. By opening up the event to coaches of all ages and levels, Holtmann is committed to expanding the reach of his programming, and helping to improve the level of basketball played across the state, whether it directly leads to a recruiting boon for the Buckeyes or not.

How long is his contract with Ohio State?

Holtmann is signed to an 8-year, $26 million dollar deal with the Buckeyes. Ohio State was willing to commit to the new head coach, and they wanted that commitment in return, adding a pretty large buyout clause in his contract.

His deal breaks down to about $3 million per year, plus bonuses for both athletic and academic performances by his team.

That $3 million includes:

  • $550,00: Annual base salary
  • $1.315 million: Required media and broadcast appearances (radio shows, pre- and post-game shows)
  • $825,000: Ohio State’s apparel deal with Nike
  • $14,400: Two car allowance (But, as reported, he’s responsible for registration, insurance, gas and maintenance.)
  • $10,000: An annual appearance on behalf of Coca-Cola Co.
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