Sports Today: Ohio State basketball gets its man

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Sports Today: Ohio State basketball gets its man

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INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 17: Chris Holtmann the head coach of the Butler Bulldogs gives instructions to his team during the 83-78 win over the Indiana Hoosiers during the Crossroads Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on December 17, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Chris Holtmann, the coach at Butler the past three seasons, appears to be a better choice than Creighton’s Greg McDermott, who reportedly was the leader in the clubhouse roughly 24 hours ago

I’d rate Holtmann as the best available realistic candidate all along (without knowing exactly what happened with Fred Hoiberg). 

Much has been made of McDermott's mediocre record at Creighton when not coaching his high-scoring son, Doug, and he has already had a failed stint in a major conference with Iowa State. 

Holtmann, who is seven years younger than McDermott, brings something important in the big picture of Ohio State basketball: Upside. 

Without that, it’s hard to see any move being better than keeping Thad Matta, and I say that as someone who already concluded the glory days of Matta were never to return. 

Though Matta’s physical condition and loss of quality assistants from the first half of his tenure have taken their toll on the program, Ohio State still has a certain appeal at least within the region so it’s unlikely the Buckeyes would have fully bottomed out without making a move. 

Matta knows the recruiting terrain and is a top-notch representative of the university, which is not to be taken for granted. 

Holtmann brings promise of better things in the future, however. 

In three years, he has already elevated the recruiting at Butler as the Bulldogs moved into a new conference, and he has recruited Ohio and the rest of the Midwest extensively. 

At 45 years old, he figures to be around for a while if he is able to get the Buckeyes back into the upper echelon of the Big Ten... 

Matta did two things for Ohio State over the past 13 years: Of course, he won big in his first nine seasons. That is well-documented. 

He also brought stability. 

The two coaches before him both won multiple Big Ten titles but ran afoul of the NCAA. 

Gary Williams was only around for three years. 

Eldon Miller led Ohio State for 10 seasons but is widely regarded as having underachieved with the Buckeyes (nine NBA players, no Big Ten championships). 

Obviously, Matta far out-performed all of them and left a program in much better shape than he or O’Brien inherited. 

I’m sure many will wonder what might have been with Archie Miller, who is the closest thing out there to what Thad Matta was when Ohio State hired him in 2004 — the young, up-and-coming “IT” coach everyone in the country knows about thanks to a surprising Elite Eight run. 

Holtmann is older and doesn’t have the same name recognition, but it’s safe to say both are on the upswing. 

If Miller is this decade’s Matta, Holtmann is probably Matta Lite. 

I haven’t watched Butler closely enough to have a feel for what he is like as a coach, but there’s no overlooking the importance of getting the best players into your gym. 

I admired the job Miller did developing players and fitting a system around them at Dayton (especially as neither of those things were happening at Ohio State), and I pretty much brushed off the recruiting angle thinking a larger school platform would take care of that.

(There’s still a good chance it will.)  

Maybe being in the Big East as opposed to the Atlantic 10 (media exposure is far different thanks to the BE’s TV deal with Fox Sports) explains all of the difference, but time will tell. 

As for Ohio State’s recruiting, the 2018 class represents a major opportunity to get back on track. 

Ohio is home to five four-star recruits, including OSU verbal commit Dane Goodwin, the son of former Dayton Flyer standout Damon Goodwin. 

A senior-to-be at Upper Arlington, Goodwin told 247Sports that Holtmann is a good hire

“He’s had a great tenure at Butler,” Goodwin said. “He’s won a lot of games there. They showed last year when they had a great team and made a run in the tournament.” 

When the season ended, OSU had a three-man class including Goodwin, Versailles guard Justin Ahrens and Cincinnati Princeton wing Darius Bazley. 

Bazley decommitted last month while Ahrens re-opened his recruitment this week after Matta was ousted. 

Along with Goodwin and Bazley, the other four-stars in the state are Pete Nance of Revere Richfield, Dwayne Cohill of Cleveland Holy Name and Jerome Hunter of Pickerington North. 

 

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