Two days after Ohio State's 2017-18 men's basketball season came to an end with a second-round NCAA Tournament loss to Gonzaga, Buckeyes coach Chris Holtmann took to the airwaves of 97.1 The Fan for his final radio show of the year.
Holtmann took time to reflect on both of the Buckeyes' NCAA Tournament games, his first season in Columbus and look ahead to the 2018-19 season during Monday night's interview with Paul Keels and Ron Stokes. The highlights from Monday night's show:
- On his team's emotions after Saturday's game: "It's more emotional the better season you have, really, because you obviously have more memories to reflect on, and we took some time together just to be together as a team."
- Holtmann said he was "really appreciative of the leadership" on this year's team, and wanted his younger players to look to them as a model for what they can do at Ohio State. "The closer the group, and this group was extremely close ... the better the leadership, and this group was led really well," singling out Jae'Sean Tate, Keita Bates-Diop and Andrew Dakich for their efforts as veteran leaders.
- Holtmann said he didn't know how his team would respond in the second half of Saturday's game, in which the Buckeyes trailed by 11 at halftime but led by as many as five in the second half, but wasn't surprised that his players rallied their way back into the game because he believes his team was "defined by having a really competitive spirit to them." Holtmann also said his players did a good job understanding "that it's always a long game," and not allowing themselves to become defeated when the other team goes on a run.
- On playing more competitively against Gonzaga than the first game against the Bulldogs in the PK80 Invitational, but it still not being enough: "I knew we would be better against them. The change in our team was more dramatic than the change in their team. But they're going to have another chance to get to a Final Four."
- For the most part, Holtmann said he thought the Buckeyes "defended pretty well" on Saturday. "They just made some plays," Holtmann said of Gonzaga making the shots needed to win the game down the stretch.
- Holtmann says the coaches are required by NCAA rules to give the players some time off after the season, but that the Buckeyes will begin their offseason training "in short order," and said "that's going to be incredibly important for this group. We have to have a very, very good offseason, given all that we're losing."
- Holtmann said he would meet with Keita Bates-Diop's family on Monday or Tuesday and expects that Bates-Diop will make a decision on his future "in the coming weeks." Holtmann said his goal is not to convince Bates-Diop to come back, but to help Bates-Diop make the decision that's in the best interest of him and his family.
- Holtmann said Bates-Diop told him after the game that "this was maybe the most special year he's had playing the game," so if Bates-Diop decides to enter the 2018 NBA draft, it won't be because he doesn't want to be at Ohio State.
- On who could be the leaders of next year's team: "I think it's wide open." Holtmann also said he believes that's normal for a team with significant turnover.
- On Kam Williams' performance in the NCAA Tournament: "Kam was outstanding ... Man, was he good for us." Holtmann said he wonders as a coach if he could have done more to get more out of Williams earlier in the season.
- Holtmann said his team had a lot of respect for South Dakota State and that the Buckeyes' first-round NCAA Tournament win, the Buckeyes' first NCAA Tournament win since 2015, "was a really good win for us."
- Holtmann said he had never been a part of an NCAA Tournament game before this year where the crowd was so overwhelmingly in favor of the opposing team.
- On the emotion of his team after the first-round win over South Dakota State: "It was great. They were so happy, and celebrating."
- Holtmann believes the fact that his returning players now have a taste of what it's like to play in the NCAA Tournament will be a big help for the Buckeyes going into next season.