“That Saturday (June 3), I was in Chicago for the Big Ten meetings and I began developing a profile for our next leader,” Smith said. “The financial parameters and a strategy to move forward.”
After receiving permission from University President Michael Drake, Smith enlisted the help of former college basketball coach Eddie Fogler to help gather information on candidates, but he said he waited until after the June 5 press conference announcing Matta’s exit to move forward with the search.
The 14th men's basketball coach for the Ohio State Buckeyes was introduced Monday in Columbus.
2. Smith called Holtmann, the coach at Butler the last three seasons, his No. 1 candidate from the beginning.
Holtmann was offered the job June 6 but did not immediately accept.
“He had trepidation,” Smith said. “There was initially a seven-year contract — I did go to eight in the process of considering.
“He needed time to think and I needed to move because I wasn’t sure what he was going to do.”
Smith said he spent Tuesday and Wednesday traveling and contacting various people before Holtmann agreed to meet with him Thursday.
In the meantime, various media reports connected the Ohio State job with Fred Hoiberg of the Chicago Bulls, Buzz Peterson of Virginia Tech, Greg McDermott of Creighton, Bob Huggins of West Virginia and Golden State Warirors assistant Mike Brown, but Smith would not acknowledge if any of them were true candidates “because of confidentiality.”
3. Eventually Smith and Holtmann agreed to meet last Thursday morning at an undisclosed location in Dayton.
“I was able to wake up and get my wife — after three hours of sleep — to drive to Dayton and he did the same thing,” Smith said. “He and Lori (Holtmann) met me in Dayton at this unbelievable place and we sat and had a great conversation and got to know one another and in that moment he accepted the job.”
4. Holtmann sought the blessing of Matta and thanked the former Butler player and coach for playing a role in the transition.
“He loves this place,” Holtmann said. “It was important to me that I had his blessing. He went above and beyond in encouraging me, and supporting me at the highest level.
“Thad probably wouldn’t want me to to go on and say this, but the standard he set here is incredible. I think everybody understands the records, accomplishments, championships, academic success, the kind of young men that he brought in. The class, dignity and integrity with which he led this program is a great example for all of us.”
5. Holtmann started recruiting within the first hour he was allowed to.
“I have some previous relationships with some young men, but really our focus this past weekend has been Ohio. I don’t want to get too specific obviously — I’m not allowed to — but we’ve hit the ground running.”
The players he can’t discuss publicly probably include a handful of four-star prospects for 2018 — Dane Goodwin of Upper Arlington (an Ohio State verbal commit), Darius Bazley of Cincinnati Princeton (a former Ohio State commit), Pete Nance of Revere Richfield, Dwayne Cohill of Cleveland Holy Name and Jerome Hunter of Pickerington North — among others.
6. The Buckeyes’ new coach promised an aggressive, attacking style of basketball and expressed no misgivings about leaving a school where basketball is king for one of the great college football powerhouses.
“I love it,” Holtmann said. “Love it. I think it’s great. I think it adds to this place. It was exciting quite obviously.”
7. Neither Smith nor Holtmann set high expectations for the coming season.
After Smith called the 2017-18 season “a year of transition that will require all of us to be supportive and patient,” Holtmann said, “We understand we’ve got some work ahead of us.”
But, he added, he and the players are both excited for the challenges ahead.
“This is a proud program that’s used to competing for championships, that’s used to competing in the NCAA tournament,” Holtmann said. “We’re gonna work diligently to make that happen.”