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Ohio State AD Gene Smith Was 'Aggressive And Persistent' In Chris Holtmann Hire

Gene Smith didn't waste any time hiring Chris Holtmann, bringing in the former Butler coach less than a week after firing Thad Matta.

Shortly after Thad Matta and Ohio State parted ways June 5, athletic director Gene Smith met with Buckeye seniors Jae'Sean Tate and Keita Bates-Diop in order to get a feel of what they wanted in their new head coach. 

Tate told members of the media June 12 that he and Bates-Diop had three main qualities they wanted in their new leader of the program and they made sure Smith knew exactly what those were. 

“A players coach. One who cares about his players. One that comes here to develop us and make sure that we are good beyond Ohio State after we leave," Tate said. "Another one was someone that holds us accountable. We need accountability and one that has structure. Those were the big three. We met as a team multiple times before the coach was chosen.”

Just one day after Matta was out, Smith was hard at work looking for such a replacement. The man he ultimately landed on in Chris Holtmann got a call on Tuesday, but was hesitant to accept any offer, especially in early June. 

"We offered him the job on Tuesday. He had trepidation. It was initially a seven-year contract. I did go to eight in the process of him considering to hopefully push his wife over the edge. I didn’t care about him, I cared about Lori. So I was trying to push her over the edge," Smith said with a laugh about his contract negotiations with Holtmann. "But the reality is we went from seven to eight. Six was never on the table at all."

While Holtmann ultimately ended up with the job, reports surfaced that Ohio State had offered the job to Greg McDermott, the head coach at Creighton, on Wednesday. Smith did not mention any other names of coaches he may or may not have met with during the process but did say that he was "traveling a lot" as he searched for Ohio State's next men's basketball coach. 

After McDermott sent out a tweet that he would be staying at Creighton, rumors that Ohio State and Holtmann were again in talks arose. It turns out those rumors appear to have been true and by Friday morning, the Buckeyes had their 14th head coach in program history. 

The deal was finished Thursday evening according to Smith, after a meeting with both the Smith and Holtmann families in Dayton. 

"I was able to wake up and get my wife after three hours of sleep to drive with me to Dayton. (Holtmann) did the same thing," Smith said. "He and Lori met me in Dayton. We sat and had a great conversation. We got to know one another and in that moment he accepted the job."

Holtmann, who leaves Butler after three years as the Bulldog head coach, said Ohio State's athletic director was assertive in his pursuit for the Buckeyes new head basketball coach.

“I want to start by thanking President Drake and Athletic Director Gene Smith for their belief in me and entrusting this proud program to us. This was a decision that I had to work through," Holtmann said at his introductory press conference. "I will tell you this - Gene was aggressive and persistent in his approach and I really appreciated that."

Holtmann met the team on Friday, just four days after Matta was fired, and Tate said he left the meeting with his new coach impressed and excited.

"I wanted to know what his goals were for the team. I wanted to know what kind of coach he was," Tate said. "Everything he said in the meeting, I was excited to be able to be coached by him this year. He seems like a very cool guy." 


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