Not only does Chris Holtmann represent the new head coach of the Ohio State men’s basketball team, his arrival illustrates the beginning of a new era. Holtmann takes over a program that had been led by Thad Matta the last 13 years.
While those who are currently on the team and played for Matta certainly do not forget the mark he left on the program, they understand that a coaching change presents an opportunity.
“I would just like to say that, although Coach Matta’s era has ended, the team and I are looking at this as a new era,” senior forward Jae’Sean Tate said shortly after Holtmann’s introductory press conference on June 12. “We are going to be able to be the first ones to start a new era for Coach Holt and we are very excited for that.”
Tate and his teammates met with Holtmann on June 9, the day Ohio State officially named Holtmann the 14th head coach in school history. Holtmann, a graduate of Taylor University, noted that one aspect of the meeting with his new players struck a chord.
“As I was talking to the players, one of the great questions that came up Friday in our meeting was what will some of my goals be for the team, for this team," Holtmann said. "It was a great question. My college coach used to say over and over something as simple as this: ‘Do today well.’ He’d say it over and over. Quite simply, that’s going to be our goal from day one.
“We understand we have tremendous work ahead of us. We’re excited about that challenge, but being disciplined to the process of doing today well is goal No. 1. There’s some really, really good stuff that comes out of that.”
In the June 5 press conference announcing Matta’s departure, it was stated that the assistants who were on the team last season were still in the fold. Now that Holtmann is the man in charge, there is a possibility that could change.
“We’re going to build an incredible staff. I can promise you that," Holtmann said of the assistant-coaching situation. "I’m extremely excited about that. That will take place in the coming days to weeks. It’s going to happen quickly. There are some wheels in motion on some of that. There’s nothing I can speak to as of right now specifically.”
Holtmann takes over a team that finished with a 17-15 overall record and a 7-11 mark in Big Ten play for the 2016-17 campaign. Not only did the club fail to make the NCAA Tournament for a second consecutive year, it fell short of even qualifying to the 2017 National Invitation Tournament.
When asked when Ohio State will be a part of the Big Dance again, Holtmann was sure to not give himself a deadline.
“I think the state of the program is good," he said. "We have some work to do. The reason I’m excited is because of the (players on the team) right behind you (the media). As I’ve gotten to know them and spend some time with them and looking forward to spend more time, you say, ‘What gets you most excited?’ It’s those guys.
"What I’ve heard about those guys from people who’ve known them, that’s really what gets me excited. Beyond that, I’m not going to put a timetable (for the NCAA Tournament). We’re going to work every day to play in the best tournament in the world. I can promise you that.”
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