Chris Holtmann Does Impossible, Brings Atmosphere to Moribund Schottenstein Center

By D.J. Byrnes on January 7, 2018 at 7:11 pm
Chris Holtmann coaches Ohio State to upset of Michigan State.

Confession: It's been roughly five years since I've felt any emotion about Ohio State basketball. That might make me bad in some fans' eyes; although it makes me like the majority of others (and I have the #click data to back that up).

Yes, Ohio State is a football school. No, that won't change. Yet Buckeye fans will bring equal passion to the hardwood—as long as it's reciprocated from players.

That's not to say Matta's last five teams didn't play hard or didn't care. But there's a reason why the atmosphere was akin to a knitting convention in recent years, and excuses about poor location and architecture designed for concerts, although both valid, only go so far.

For proof of this, look no further than Ohio State's 80-64 "upset" of No. 1 Michigan State on Sunday, in which the local team controlled their opponents from the opening tipoff.

What was most startling was the palpable buzz emanating from the previously moribund Schottenstein Center. After the last few seasons of watching action primarily through my "Marc Loving" TweetDeck column, I had almost forgotten it's entirely legal to feel euphoria while your anointed amateur basketball team disembowels a lesser foe on national television. 

It may feel like an overnight success for fans waking out of a coma. It wasn't, though. From Day 1, Holtmann has worked tirelessly—going as far as spending a day handing out donuts to students—to extend get fans' excitement back behind the team. 

He showed today his team is worthy of emotional investment. The Buckeyes may not win every game this season by 16 en route to the championship (though I wouldn't be against it). They may even drop a game.

But it's become clear in a mere 17 games, Gene Smith made the right call in replacing Matta and did an even better job in hiring Holtmann away from Butler during an unideal timeframe.

He's already performed his first miracle. And if Keita Bates-Diop keeps playing like a National Player of the Year, maybe Dan Dakich's Final Four pick won't look so ridiculous come March.

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