Ohio State Fires Chris Holtmann in Seventh Season As Head Coach

By Andy Anders on February 14, 2024 at 12:10 pm
Chris Holtmann
Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch/USA TODAY Network

Ohio State is officially in the market for a new head basketball coach.

The Buckeyes, all but a lock to miss the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row after losing nine of their last 11 games, fired Holtmann midseason on Wednesday according to a release from Ohio State.

“I want to express my appreciation toward Chris for the first-class program, and the well-respected program, he has run here at Ohio State,” athletic director Gene Smith said. “He and his wife, Lori, are wonderful people. I thank each of them for their seven years here in Columbus and I wish them well.”

Ohio State will owe Holtmann roughly $12.8 million that remains on his contract, per the release.

Holtmann finishes with a career record of 137-86 in seven seasons as Ohio State's head coach. He made four NCAA Tournament appearances, each coming in the first four years his teams were able to qualify, as the 2020 tourney was canceled due to COVID-19. His deepest runs in The Big Dance were second-round exits in 2018, 2019 and 2022.

The downturn of Holtmann's program truly began three years ago. After making the NCAA Tournament as a two-seed in the 2020-21 season, the Buckeyes were upset in the first round by No. 15 seed Oral Roberts.

Future second-round NBA draft pick E.J. Liddell returned to the following year's Ohio State squad, and the Buckeyes added one-and-done future first-round draft pick Malaki Branham on the recruiting trail. Despite that talent, Ohio State limped to a 20-12 finish, a No. 7 seed in the tournament and a second-round tournament exit against second-seeded Villanova.

In the offseason following that 2021-22 campaign, the Buckeyes signed Holtmann to a three-year contract extension through 2027-28 that took his annual earnings up to roughly $3.5 million. Then things spiraled much further starting in January 2023.

Ohio State embarked on one of its worst stretches of bad basketball in recent memory, losing 14 of 15 games in Big Ten play before closing the season 16-19. It was the Buckeyes' first losing record since the 2003-04 season, the last in the tenure of former head coach Jim O'Brien.

A run to the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament provided a sliver of hope for the future, especially with marquee performances from freshmen Bruce Thornton and Roddy Gayle Jr. But once again, things fell apart once full-time Big Ten play hit this January.

Ohio State lost a winnable road game against Indiana on Jan. 6 after shooting 28.2% in the second half, then was later upset by Michigan on the road to cap a three-game early-January losing streak. The Buckeyes bounced back a bit to beat Penn State, but back-to-back blowout road losses against Nebraska and Northwestern started another five-game losing streak. A blown 18-point second-half lead at home against Indiana on Feb. 6, the second such lost lead of the season for Ohio State, was a particularly jarring low for the team.

Although Ohio State snapped that losing streak with a double-overtime win over Maryland on Saturday, a 62-54 loss to Wisconsin – which tied the school record for the longest road losing streak in OSU history at 16 consecutive road defeats dating back to January 2023 – proved to be the final straw for Holtmann as the Buckeyes’ head coach.

Per the release, the Buckeyes will start their search for their next head basketball coach after the conclusion of this season, with incoming athletic director Ross Bjork set to lead the hunt for a new head man. Assistant coach Jake Diebler will serve as interim head coach in the meantime.

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