Gene Smith Sees Bright Future Ahead for Ohio State Basketball, Lauds Chris Holtmann For “Outstanding” Work

One phrase got here to thoughts for Gene Smith when summing up his ideas on the job Chris Holtmann has performed with the Ohio State males’s basketball program.


The three-year contract extension and $500,000 wage enhance Holtmann acquired in May already served as a transparent indication of Smith’s approval for what the Buckeye head coach has achieved in 5 seasons in Columbus. Perhaps greater than that, it was a vote of confidence in what this system may obtain within the close to future given extra time beneath Holtmann’s management.

In an unique interview with Eleven Warriors‘ Dan Hope this previous week, Ohio State’s athletic director praised the momentum Holtmann and firm have constructed on the recruiting path – particularly their top-10 nationally ranked 2022 class – which he believes will yield breakthrough success for this system within the years to return.

“When you have a look at the tradition that we have now and the student-athletes that we recruit and we acquired the primary class within the Big Ten this yr, top-five nationally, and then you definitely meet the younger males like I’ve this summer season and watch them work out – they’re exceptionally gifted,” Smith mentioned. “And so the longer term’s brilliant, and you’ve got good management getting back from final yr and this crew has an opportunity to be particular for the long term. Chris and I’ve talked about that. Hopefully we have now younger males who will probably be with us for some time.”

Ohio State has but to make it to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament beneath Holtmann, and Holtmann has not but raised a Big Ten championship banner within the Schottenstein Center. But together with the COVID-19-shortened 2019-20 season, all 5 of his Buckeye groups have (or would have) earned an at-large bid to the Big Dance, which is one thing solely Thad Matta has performed at Ohio State earlier than Holtmann.

“If we’re capable of preserve some stability over time, good coaches have an amazing alternative to really construct a tradition the best means and it is actually a ravishing factor.”– Gene Smith

Holtmann has turned in 5 straight 20-win seasons with the Buckeyes, a feat equaled by solely Kansas and Oregon amongst Power 5 packages. That stage of consistency was rewarded over the offseason, as Holtmann’s new contract would have put him among the many top-20 highest-paid coaches in school basketball final season, with solely Michigan State’s Tom Izzo incomes a better wage within the Big Ten.

Holtmann’s contract extension got here in tandem with Ohio State soccer coach Ryan Day receiving an extension that tied him with Mel Tucker for the Big Ten’s highest-paid soccer coach.

“I’ve all the time felt that we wanted to compensate our coaches, and notably soccer and basketball, on the prime of the convention and in line with our expectations. And I actually felt that each of them (Holtmann and Day) earned that chance,” mentioned Smith. “I’m an enormous believer of stability. If we’re capable of preserve some stability over time, good coaches have an amazing alternative to really construct a tradition the best means and it is actually a ravishing factor. So I’m enthusiastic about it.

“This is a distinct world than 10, 15, 20 years in the past, or when it comes to the ecosystem that we served, or recruiting and the switch portal or NIL that we talked about, and all these varieties of issues. So stability is crucial, notably in a time of change. So I needed to make it possible for we had two good coaches who acquired to be with us for some time and compensating them in line with the market and expectations I feel is all the time the best factor to do.”

Smith is effectively conscious that Holtmann hasn’t reached the peaks that his predecessor did in Columbus, given the 5 Big Ten common season titles, 4 convention event championships and two Final Four appearances on Matta’s résumé. Had accidents to key gamers not been an element this previous yr, although, Smith thinks the Buckeyes may have gone deeper within the NCAA Tournament.

Smith made particular reference to sixth-year ahead Justice Sueing, who missed all however two video games final season coping with a hernia concern. Sueing entered the season as a projected top-two scorer on the crew and a significant do-it-all cog for the Buckeyes.

“You simply have to actually take note of every thing across the program. Basketball’s actually fragile with accidents and if sure gamers did not get damage on the finish of the yr final yr, it will have been a distinct story for us,” Smith mentioned. “And I’m trying ahead to seeing Justice Sueing hopefully have a full season after he is recovered from his challenges. And his management and simply his savviness on the ground with these younger puppies that we have now coming in.”

The younger gamers Smith talked about embrace 5 freshmen, 4 of whom are ranked among the many prime 65 total prospects within the 2022 class, with Bruce Thornton, Roddy Gayle, Felix Okpara, Brice Sensabaugh and Bowen Hardman all coming aboard this summer season. Paired with three switch portal additions, Ohio State has eight new scholarship gamers on the 2022-23 roster.

Even with that blend of high-level expertise on paper, betting on a career-best season for Holtmann might not be smart contemplating the variety of new faces he should coalesce in brief order. Not to say, the Buckeyes misplaced their two prime gamers from a yr in the past – EJ Liddell and Malaki Branham – to the NBA draft in June.

Between his head coach and promising new nucleus, Smith nonetheless has loads of religion on this yr’s crew and the way forward for this system nonetheless.

“They’re gifted, I’ve seen them work out. I understand how good these younger guys are,” Smith mentioned. “But it’s essential to attempt to maintain onto them and it’s essential to play them. And Chris and I’ve talked about that a bit bit, is we are going to all the time have student-athletes who are available from the switch portal, however when you’ve got a category like he is acquired, you simply acquired to play them and take the bruises that you simply ‘ll take as a result of they’re younger and inexperienced.

“But you are constructing for the longer term and that is what it is all about.”

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