Since the firing of Thad Matta, the internet continues to hemorrhage speculation about who might be the next Ohio State University Men’s Basketball coach. Overall, there’s a lot of smoke and seemingly a lack of fire to any candidate three days into the coaching search.
However, there are tiers to the rumored candidates. There’s the unattainable banana boat cluster, made up of Brad Stephens (Boston Celtics), Jay Wright (Villanova), and Sean Miller (Arizona). Next is the long list of middling/realistic contenders, including, but not limited to Chris Mack (Xavier), Mick Cronin (Cincinnati), and Gregg Marshall (Wichita State). Fill-in your bottom tier of unappealing, but affordable options like Chris Jent (Ohio State assistant), Pat Kelsey (Winthrop), and Dan Mueller (Illinois State).
Not mentioned among this crowd, but certainly occupying the middle tier is Butler head coach Chris Holtmann. The shear mention of Butler men’s basketball leads directly to thoughts of a different leader, one who coaches in Boston, but the one calling the shots today is probably a nearly equivalent talent.
Working under the removed Thad Matta from 2008-2010, Holtmann has spent time as the head coach at Gardner-Webb before joining Chris Miller at Butler, eventually taking over the program in the wake of Miller’s medical leave.
Though his tenure began in 2014, Holtmann has made the NCAA Tournament in each of his three years as the Bulldogs’ head coach. Additionally, Holtmann’s teams have advanced passed the first round all three seasons, including a run to the Sweet Sixteen in 2017 (Butler would lose a narrow 92-80 loss to the eventual champion North Carolina Tar Heels).
After Ohio State watched four of its five recruits from its 2015 class, one that was ranked in the top five in the country, evacuate the program, Holtmann represents a breath of fresh air. Considering Butler doesn’t maintain some of the prestige worn by its competitors, Holtmann continues to work clusters of three-star recruits like Kamar Baldwin, Kelan Martin, and Tyler Wideman into palpable players.
While AD Gene Smith is more than capable of grabbing a name of greater recognition, Holtmann is a 45-year-old option who is fresh off of a 2017 Big East Coach of the Year award and was a hot name for the Indiana job prior to Archie Miller taking the throne.
There will come a day when Holtmann coaches a top-level program, whether his native Louisville is on the market, or one of those teams up north like Michigan State, this guy is going to find a healthy residence. Again, inking Billy Donavan (Oklahoma City Thunder) would be a very sexy grab, one of these developing coaches is always going to be the better option.
Butler is currently ranked No. 23 on ESPN’s “Way-Too-Early” Top 25 list. Perhaps that’s the best way to describe the potential Holtmann hiring. It’s not the most attractive pick, but it’s got a lot more potential than a lot of the other names listed.