LAKEWOOD, Ohio — His scheduled session had run long, but Chris Holtmann had one important point yet to make.
As an invited guest speaker at USA Basketball’s Cleveland Coach Academy held at St. Edward High School, the Ohio State men’s basketball coach spent roughly an hour Saturday discussing the keys to running successful transition offense to nearly 200 coaches spread across the hardwood bleachers. Before he ceded the floor to Cleveland State coach Dennis Felton, Holtmann made sure to stress his program's policy toward those hoping to learn from the Buckeyes.
“If you ever want to watch us, our doors are always open,” he said.
It’s the latest step in the process of Holtmann continuing to get his name out there as he seeks to rebuild the Ohio State program. For most of July, those efforts took place on the recruiting circuit, where he said multiple coaches talked with him, often unprompted, about the OSU program. Last Tuesday, Holtmann invited season-ticket holders to Value City Arena to tour the facilities, ask him questions, garner some autographs and pose for photos.
Early Saturday morning, he was putting out that same vibe to the coaches while clad in a scarlet USA Basketball polo shirt.
“I think people will realize that we’re pretty transparent and pretty relaxed in terms of we want people to come and watch practice and observe,” he told The Dispatch after his session concluded. “We’ve already had quite a few coaches through our summer workouts. This is a great state for a lot of really good high school coaches, and I think the exchange of ideas is really good. We’ve got a lot of great coaches here in the state, so to have an opportunity to invite them to practice, that’s a good thing.”
Holtmann was invited to take part in the event by St. Edward coach Eric Flannery, who is involved with USA Basketball. Coaches from 15 countries signed up for the three-day event that concludes Sunday and also features Michigan State coach Tom Izzo and Ohio State alumnus and CBS Sports college basketball analyst Clark Kellogg, among others.
Four days earlier on his home court, Holtmann spent more than half an hour meeting with any of the 800-plus attendees of an event dubbed “An Evening with Coach Holtmann.” In a white dress shirt, Holtmann answered questions about his backcourt this season and even looked up as a pair of season-ticket holders pointed out their seats in section 321 of the upper bowl.
None of it makes his team better, but that’s not really the goal.
“The thing you realize when you become a head coach is that that’s in the job description,” he said of making sure he’s being seen. “I enjoy it because I enjoy meeting people, I enjoy talking, but it’s a part of the job description. Certainly when you’re at The Ohio State University, there’s a certain level of visibility that’s necessary and important for high school coaches and coaches of all levels to know who you are and feel like they have a comfort level with you. This is a small part of that.”
On the court at St. Edward, Holtmann repeated some of the mantras he had espoused earlier in the week that he feels have helped make him successful. Chief among them is his slogan “Do Today Well,” which has been put on the nameplates above empty lockers inside the team’s locker room. He demonstrated some of the principles that the Buckeyes will utilize in offensive transition, a topic assigned to him by USA Basketball, with a team of high school girls.
He was followed by Felton, and after spending several minutes watching the Vikings coach explain his 1-3-1 zone defense, Holtmann headed back home to enjoy some family time that has been rare since taking the job in early June. Among the advice offered to coaches in Lakewood: “The better husband you are, the better coach you will be.” Those in attendance gave him a warm reception, and many took to Twitter to share their thanks.
For now, at least, things have gone well for Holtmann. The dearth of available players has been addressed and recruiting interest around the program is building, with multiple unofficial visits by potential players set for this week and official ones shaping up for September.
Some might call it the honeymoon phase, and it’s one Holtmann said he’s hoping to extend as long as possible.
“It’s been incredible,” he said. “From the notes, the letters, the emails, the welcome from so many that I haven’t been able to respond to all of them. Hopefully that’s the same seven years down the road, that they’re still really happy that I’m leading their program, but it’s been great.”