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Spielman & Hooley: Chris Holtmann Joins the Show

Ohio State hoops coach reflects on his purpose for coaching beyond winning

Chris Holtmann hasn't lost often in his three seasons at Ohio State.

In fact, it's easy to make the numerical case he's been the best hire in his sport over that term.

Losing, though it's rare, comes in different forms for Holtmann in an ever-changing era of college basketball.

Transfers are far more prevalent, now, as evidenced by D.J. Carton's and Luther Muhammad's exits after this past season even though both were in the Buckeyes' Top Six.

That's unlikely to change in the future, with Name, Image and Likeness compensation further blurring the loyalty issue for players whose roles aren't to their liking.

Holtmann joined the Spielman and Hooley, We Tackle Life, podcast Friday to reflect on what's hardest for him to process as a coach -- the loss of a game, the loss of a recruit or the loss of a transfer -- and other topics pertaining to his background, his approach to the job and what's shaped him as a coach.

"Losing a game is temporary, but...the losses stick with you so much longer," Holtmann said. "They sting so much longer than the wins do. They just do." 

The vision of Tony Carr hitting a 30-foot, bank shot just before the final buzzer at Value City Arena in 2017 still lingers.

"I think about our loss to Penn State at home our first year," Holtmann said. "We could have won the Big Ten championship if we hadn't lost to Carr and Penn State.

"Last year, we had a couple home losses in January (to Wisconsin and Minnesota). I don't think about winning at Purdue (in 2017) when they were third in the country or having the five Top 10 wins we had this year.

"What's hardest though? If you have a recruit that you've invested years in, and that's literally what it sometimes boils down to...and that recruit ends up going to a different place, that stings for awhile. That's a gut punch that is hard to live with.

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I'd probably put the transfer third in that situation. Not to say that's not a painful thing, but in a lot of ways transfers can prove beneficial in both ways."

Other topics Holtmann touched on in his 30 minute interview included:

Question: How have COVID-19 precautions impacted recruiting with no AAU basketball being played this spring?

Holtmann: "We did not have that critical evaluation time. So, there's been a number of things that people have speculated. Does this mean there's going to be more under-the-radar guys. Does this mean there's going to be some mis-evaluations that happen in the future. I'm not sure.

Question: How much were you shaped by growing up in Nicholasville, Ky.?

Holtmann: "It's so similar here. Very few towns have I been in that are as similar in a lot of ways, in terms of their fervor for a sports team as Kentucky is for Kentucky basketball and Ohio is for football. It's a very similar passion and fervor for those respective sports. And it's really been enjoyable to live in both."

Question: What did you take from playing at Taylor University that's helped you as a coach or a person?

Holtmann: "It was the hardest, most-challenging, best years of my life, because I played for a Hall of Fame coach who was extremely demanding. And a guy that I, really, honestly, at times did not enjoy playing for, but became a very close mentor. Outside of my father, (he is) the most significant man in my life. He really challenged my faith as a person, and then, eventually, as a coach.

Question: "Coaching 15 players, you get the chance to be closer to them than a football coach would with 85 players. How do you view your role in their life beyond basketball?

Holtmann: "It's important to know who they are as individuals, what grabs them, what challenges them, what concerns them, what they're anxious about....To me, it's not a means to an end. You love and you care about your players simply because that's what you're called to do. If the byproduct of that is that they play harder and compete harder, well, that's fine. But it's simply what we're called to do is care (for) and love our players. Obviously, I think it often means that you tell them the truth, that you're challenging them and that our you're giving them real specific perspective on what life looks like beyond bubble of college."

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