After a commitment he can’t talk about until November, Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann met with reporters Tuesday inside the practice gym for a previously scheduled interview session. The 45-minute encounter covered a lot of generalities about when a program lands a significant recruit (as the Buckeyes did Tuesday morning with five-star forward Alonzo Gaffney) but also some key insight into Holtmann’s first season with the Buckeyes and where things might be headed.
Here are a few of the highlights.
Everyone staying put
The exodus of players prematurely departing the program for other schools during the last two seasons has been well-documented, and it helped lead to the firing of coach Thad Matta. The Buckeyes are slated to return seven recruited scholarship players off of last season’s roster, and as of now none of them plan on being anywhere but at Ohio State next year.
With four freshmen, a transfer and possibly as many as two more graduate transfers still to be added, keeping that group intact was critical.
“I think that’s important,” Holtmann said. “You don’t expect that necessarily in today’s college basketball. It’s an exception more than the rule, but we’re excited about that and I think it makes sense because those guys see opportunity in front of them. It does help with continuity. I’ve said it over and over: You can’t lose the number of guys that we’ve lost and have a consistent run. At some point, you’re going to feel that. I just think for us can we continue to build brick by brick and then hopefully get to the point where we can enjoy a sustained run. That’s really our philosophy.”
The same goes for Holtmann’s coaching staff. Assistants Ryan Pedon, Terry Johnson and Mike Schrage will likely be back next year, although Holtmann said there were some opportunities available for some of them.
“It’s hard to say for sure but I think the staff will remain in place, for the most part,” Holtmann said. “We had a couple guys that were approached for jobs and for one reason or another it didn’t necessarily work out. The best way to keep your guys is to lose. They’re going to come and try to poach our guys. I think we have a very talented staff all the way down the line, from the people we added here to the people we brought over from Butler. I think we have a very talented staff. They help me do my job better. I think it’s only a matter of time before at some point we lose a guy to a head coaching position.”
Seeking grad transfers
It has not been a surprise that the Buckeyes are trying to bolster their backcourt by adding a player via the graduate-transfer market. As it stands, Ohio State has one open roster spot — but that number could grow without losing anybody.
Senior Joey Lane, a former walk-on who was converted to scholarship two seasons ago because the Buckeyes had extras to give and retained that status last season, is not guaranteed to remain on scholarship for his final year.
“We’ve always had a conversation with Joey about this is a year we’ll take it each year and look at it,” Holtmann said. “That’s the conversation I believe coach Matta had with him and I had when I got in here. His impact is significant on our team, but he understands that. How that will all play out, I don’t know. We’re a ways away from going down that road. Right now we definitely anticipate bringing in one.”
The Buckeyes have mostly entered the offseason in physical health.
“Musa (Jallow)’s still dealing with an ankle issue and he’s been out of pickup and skill workouts, but he’s been able to do the morning workouts with (strength and conditioning coach) Quadrian Banks,” Holtmann said. “Everybody else is healthy.”
Matta in contact
Since accepting the job last June, Holtmann has been complimentary of Matta on numerous occasions. Many times, it’s been unprompted. On Tuesday, he was asked when he last spoke with Matta.
“Thad called me after the season and was just really complimentary of the job we had done,” he said. “I was complimentary of him recruiting Keita and JT and Kam and those guys and the whole team. He was really, really complimentary. That’s the last time I’ve talked to him for an extended period.”
Holtmann’s personal Twitter page drew significant traffic last week when he posted a photo of a puppy with the caption, “Promise your daughter a puppy = trouble.”
The adjustment period to the new dog has not been an easy one.
“Terrible,” he deadpanned. “It’s been awful. It’s been five miserable days. I mean, this thing. Our dog has kennel cough, so we’ve got to keep him separated. We’ve got two boxers and we’ve got to keep them both separated. Most dogs, they’re friendly and they want to be around people. My wife had a great idea to make his home right outside our bedroom, our laundry room. Yeah, it’s been a miserable five days of sleep.”