Gene Smith Dispels Rumors Surrounding Ohio State's Basketball Coaching Search

By D.J. Byrnes on June 12, 2017 at 11:47 am
Gene Smith dispels coaching search.

Rumors and erroneous reports are a part of every big-time college coaching search. It's part of the majesty that makes them so fun to follow.

Ohio State's search for its 14th men's basketball head coach proved no different.

So after Monday's press conference introducing former Butler coach Chris Holtmann as the man to lead the Buckeyes forward, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith took to the podium for the second time in the day to "clear up some of the rumors" surrounding the search.

As for the curious timing of firing Thad Matta in the first place, Smith conceded it wasn't part of his plan when he met with Matta on June 2. The two exited agreeing to a leadership change.

"I did not go into that meeting anticipating that he and I would agree on a leadership change. Once we came out of that meeting, I began to process [and focused] on one priority. That was to do everything that we could to make sure Monday's press conference paid a tribute to him in a humanistic way that he deserved."

With Matta out of the way, Smith turned his attention to the replacement, promising the players a swift search. It started that Saturday with Smith in Chicago for Big Ten meetings.

After a conversation with university president Michael Drake to secure financial parameters needed to bag an appropriate coach that late in the process, Smith talked with Eddie Fogler, a former South Carolina coach and current coaching consultant, to build a profile of their next target.

That search pointed them to Chris Holtmann, who Smith says was his No. 1 target from the beginning. He didn't get him at first, though.

"He was my target. He was my target from the very beginning from Monday night. Then we offered him a job on Tuesday. He had trepidation."

The hesitancy caused Smith to up the ante.

"It was initially a seven-year contract [offer]. I did go to eight hopefully to push his wife over the edge.

"I didn't care about him. I cared about Lori," Smith joked. "I was trying to push her over the edge. [A six-year contract offer] was never on the table at all."

While Holtmann pondered his future, Smith checked over some other candidates.

The Columbus Dispatch reported Smith targeted Virginia Tech's Buzz Williams, West Virginia's Bob Huggins, and Providence's Ed Cooley after Arizona's Sean Miller and Xavier's Chris Mack rejected overtures. In a follow-up, it said Smith flew to Roanoke, Virginia to do so.

Though Smith didn't contend talks with other candidates, he denied flying to Roanoke—with a noted caveat.

"I was not in Roanoke. The plane was in Roanoke, but I wasn't on it. The reality is Tuesday and Wednesday I was traveling a lot. I spoke to a number of people. I met with a few people. But fortunately [Holtmann] and I agreed to meet Thursday morning."

That meeting occurred at an "unbelievable place" in Dayton.

"I was able to wake up and get my wife up after three hours of sleep to drive with me to Dayton. He did the same thing. He and Lori met me in Dayton. It was an unbelievable place. We sat and had a great conversation and got to know one another. He accepted the job. I called Eddie and said, 'We're done. Release everybody else. We got our guy.'"

Smith added he felt he did the search as swiftly as possible and thanked fans and alumni for their patience.

As for a reported job offer to Creighton's Greg McDermott, Smith cited confidentially agreements with "people he talked to" during the process and wouldn't detail any of those backroom dealings.

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