Chris Holtmann Did “An Exceptional Job” In 2020-21, According to Annual Performance Review By Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith

By Griffin Strom on December 14, 2021 at 8:35 am
Chris Holtmann

In an annual evaluation of Chris Holtmann's performance, Buckeye athletic director Gene Smith said the Ohio State head coach did “an exceptional job” in 2020-21.

During a COVID-19-plagued campaign last year, Holtmann led the Buckeyes to their first Big Ten Championship Game in eight years, and Ohio State’s No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament was the program’s highest since the 2012-13 season. Smith said in the performance review, obtained by Eleven Warriors and dated Oct. 1, that Holtmann’s program is one that will contend for titles moving forward.

“Chris did an exceptional job considering the challenges the pandemic placed on the program,” Smith wrote in a section summarizing Holtmann’s highlights from the past year. “The culture of the team and their performance in the classroom, behaviorally and on the court was outstanding.”

Smith, who acknowledged in the review that Holtmann exceeded expectations in categories including job knowledge, communication, teamwork and personal conduct and accountability, also cited the success of the Buckeye coaching staff on the recruiting trail.

“The program is in an excellent position to become a championship team. The current team has a chance to be in the running and recruiting is the best it has ever been,” Smith wrote. 

In the “key areas or priorities for growth" section, Smith wrote that “continuing to position the team for a championship is a priority this year.” The three areas in which Smith felt Holtmann met expectations, rather than exceeded them, included productivity and quality of work, leadership and management.

Gene Smith

In a self-evaluation, Holtmann assessed himself as having met expectations in all three categories listed, which included coaching and leadership responsibilities, player development both on and off the court and recruiting “high level student-athletes who fit the profile of our University and program.”

Holtmann listed four highlights from the team’s 2020-21 season in the summary section; Ohio State’s No. 7 finish in the AP poll, its fourth straight season with at least 20 wins, seven wins against top 20 opponents and its fourth straight season qualifying for the NCAA Tournament. The Buckeyes did not have a chance to formally qualify for the 2020 NCAA Tournament due to COVID-19, but that team was well on its way to an at-large bid.

Dealing with the pandemic was first among the challenges Holtmann listed for the 2020-21 season, and the fifth-year Buckeye coach said being upset by No. 15 seed Oral Roberts in the first round of the NCAA Tournament was “very, very difficult.” Holtmann added that injuries “really impacted our team” and wrote that roster management is “the biggest challenge facing college basketball.”

When asked what he will do to improve in the next year, Holtmann wrote that the Buckeyes need to “develop better defensively” in 2021-22, and that “I need to be better” in coaching Ohio State to better late-game performances. Holtmann also said staying healthy “as much as we can control” late in the year is an area of emphasis.

Eleven Warriors also obtained performance reviews for three Ohio State assistant coaches, including Ryan Pedon, Jake Diebler and director of professional development Terence Dials. All three either met or exceeded expectations in each criteria over the past year, per Holtmann’s reviews.

In Pedon’s self-evaluation, the Buckeyes’ offensive coordinator listed Ohio State’s nationally elite offensive efficiency and E.J. Liddell’s individual success in 2020-21 among his highlights from the past year. Among things to improve, Pedon wrote that he must “spend even more time fostering new recruiting relationships” because “recruiting relationships and connections will become even more important as the recruiting landscape continues to evolve.”

Holtmann lauded Pedon for his “excellent work” as a coach and recruiter, and did not list anything when asked to name areas of improvement for the fifth-year Buckeye assistant.

Diebler, a third-year Ohio State assistant, said he must spend more time learning from “veteran coaches who have won at the highest level,” and wrote that he will “perform case study” on the offensive and defensive schemes of a couple teams at the college, NBA and international level in the coming year.

“Jake has done a tremendous job in his time here,” Holtmann wrote in the summary and highlights section of Diebler’s review. “Excellent addition to our staff. Very excited about his future.”

Dials was the lone assistant to receive feedback from Holtmann in the key areas for improvement section of his review, as the Ohio State head coach said Dials should “continue to grow into the position” and “find additional ways for our players to reach out, seek and connect with the community.”

“Love TD and his work on our staff. He is a good mentor for our players, connects them with the community and has taken a lead role with the advent of NIL,” Holtmann wrote about Dials. “The pandemic prevented a lot of what he does.”

In his self-evaluation, Dials said finding opportunities for community engagement is an area for improvement in the coming year, but added that several Buckeyes either graduated or enrolled in graduate school this past year.

Since the 2021-22 season began, all four coaches have helped the Buckeyes to an 8-2 start to the year, including wins against three ranked teams and two conference foes. On the recruiting trail, the staff signed the No. 7 class in the country on Nov. 10, which was the highest-rated haul in Holtmann's tenure in Columbus.

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