Chris Holtmann a Semifinalist For Naismith Coach of the Year

By James Grega on February 23, 2018 at 10:01 am
Chris Holtmann

After leading Ohio State to the brink of a Big Ten title, Chris Holtmann has been named a semifinalist for the Naismith Coach of the Year award. 

Holtmann came to Ohio State in early June following the firing of longtime head coach Thad Matta, and inherited a roster that had won just 17 games in 2016-17 and would be without arguably its best player in Trevor Thompson, who left early for the professional ranks. 

All Holtmann has done since is piece together a roster – consisting of a Michigan graduate transfer (Andrew Dakich) and a high schooler (Musa Jallow) – that has Ohio State just one game back of Michigan State for a share of the Big Ten regular season title. 

Semifinalists for Naismith COY
Rich Barnes Tennessee SEC
Chris Beard Texas Tech Big 12
Tony Bennett Virginia ACC
Brad Brownell Clemson ACC
Mick Cronin Cincinnati AAC
Chris Holtmann Ohio State Big 10
Chris Mack Xavier Big East
Matt Painter Purdue Big 10
Bruce Pearl Auburn SEC
Jay Wright Villanova Big East

The former Butler head coach has led the Buckeyes to a 23-7, 14-3 record with one regular season game to play, despite Ohio State being picked to finish outside the top-10 in the conference before the season began. Holtmann has also led his team into the top-10 nationally this season, as the Buckeyes soared to No. 8 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll following victories over Purdue and Iowa before falling back to No. 16 after back-to-back losses to Penn State and Michigan.

During Ohio State's Senior Day ceremonies, following a 79-52 win over Rutgers on Tuesday, Holtmann openly endorsed redshirt junior forward Keita Bates-Diop for Big Ten Player of the Year, in front of the remaining fans at Value City Arena. Once handed the microphone, Bates-Diop, who was named to the late season watch list for the Naismith Player of the Year award, returned the favor. 

"He had a tough job coming in. We had a bad season last year, a bunch of guys had left, and he believed in our small group of guys that we could do something special this year," Bates-Diop said. "You say I'm the player of the year, you are the coach of the year in my opinion."

Addressing the media Thursday, Holtmann said Bates-Diop's words were "special."

"That's a special comment that a young man makes. He is a special kid," Holtmann said. "He was probably just trying to make me feel good, but that was nice of him."

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