Ohio State Director of Athletics Gene Smith says Chris Holtmann was his first choice to replace Thad Matta as Buckeye basketball coach but it took a little work. Holtmann admits he initially turned down the position, but Smith persisted and last Thursday, with an 8-year contract on the table, Holtmann decided it was an offer he could not refuse. He was announced as Ohio State coach Friday and Monday was officially introduced to Buckeye Nation.
Holtmann talked at length about recruiting in the state of Ohio, program expectations, coaching basketball at a what many consider a "football school", the current team, following Thad Matta and more. Here are some of his comments.
On recruiting: "This region is a tremendous area for talented, smart and tough players. I've recruited Ohio for over 20 years and it has outstanding players and coaches--some of the very best in the country. It will be paramount to our success, there's no question. We're going to work extremely hard as a staff to close the borders and dominate the state of Ohio in recruiting. It will be an everyday focus for us."
On following Thad Matta: "Thad is a friend and his guidance through this process speaks to what all of us know about him. He's a man of great character and he loves this place. It was important to me that I had his blessing and he went above and beyond in encouraging me and supporting me at the highest level."
On the programs expectations: "Listen, one of the reasons you come to a place like this is because you understand that expectations come with it and we're certainly not going to shy away from that. We understand we have some work ahead of us and I think our guys are excited about that and I'm really excited about that. This is a proud program that's used to competing for championships and is used to competing in the NCAA tournament and we're going to work diligently to make that happen."
On the program he is inheriting: "The state of the program is good. We have some work to do but I think if you say 'What gets you most excited?,' it's (the players) and what I've heard about those guys from people that know them. That's really what gets me excited. Beyond that I'm not going to put a timetable (on our success). We're going to work every day to play in the best tournament in the world...I can promise you that."
On his style of play: "Aggressive, attacking, we want to be physical and tough and tough minded. I think it's obviously something we're going to work on every day but tough and tough minded is going to be really important but we want to play an aggressive attacking style and we want our guys to play with freedom. We want them to go out there and cut loose and play."
On coaching basketball at Ohio State--a perceived 'football school': "I love it. I think it's great. I think it adds to this place. It was exciting to me to be quite honest with you. Obviously I have tremendous respect for Urban (Meyer) and I appreciate him reaching out (to me) a couple days ago. I'm excited to kind of pick his brain but (Ohio State's football reputation) was nothing but a positive."
On his last week--going from being head coach at Butler--to being head coach at Ohio State: "It's a little bit of a blur to be real honest with you. That's why on Friday I kind of wanted to put everything aside and just get to what's most important and that's coming and spending some time with (the team) because these days there's so much coming at you that I just don't want the really important stuff to get ignored and (the players) are the really important stuff."
On his first impression of his team and getting to know the players: "We're going to spend a lot of time together collectively and we're going to spend a lot of one-on-one time together. That process will continue to happen but I sensed excitement and I think a readiness to get to work. They're excited about what's ahead...I hope they are, and I cannot wait to get working."