When Chris Holtmann graduated with a degree in psychology from Taylor University in 1994, he left with the diploma he had come for as well as a guiding three words he heard uncounted times as a basketball player under Paul Patterson.

Those words inspired Holtmann to become an NAIA All-American on a team that earned a No. 1 ranking his senior season, the Big South coach of the year at Gardner-Webb in 2013 and the winner of 70 games in three seasons at Butler.

These days, Ohio State players have become used to hearing Holtmann say, “Do today well.”

The Buckeyes did many days well in the 2017-18 season in finishing second in the Big Ten and compiling a 25-9 record that included a victory over South Dakota State in the NCAA Tournament.

For transforming the team from a quandary into a big winner, Holtmann was the overwhelming choice for The Dispatch Men’s Ohio College Basketball Coach of the Year in a vote of coaches in the state.

Holtmann learned “Do today well” from Patterson, who in 34 seasons at Taylor won 734 games and 15 conference championships and made it to 14 NAIA tournaments.

“Coach Patterson has had the greatest impact on my career,” said Holtmann, who was a graduate assistant at Taylor in 1997-98 and assistant from 1999-2003.

“I learned so much under John Groce (at Ohio University) and Brad Stevens (at Butler), and I’ve borrowed from many others, but it’s not even close the way he has shaped me as a coach. He’s my coach and always will be my coach. … I’ve taken things I’ve learned from him to being a husband and father.”

Holtmann consulted Patterson before making his first recruiting trip.

“Coach said beyond talent, ‘Does he have the grit? Does he have substance? Does he appear to be an achiever?’ ” Holtmann said.

Patterson also shared his perspective when Holtmann left Butler to take the Ohio State job.

“I try to send him positive texts like, ‘Just be Chris,’ ” Patterson said. “He loves the game. What you saw from Ohio State is kids stepping up at different times. He wants his players to make the next play and to just compete.”

Patterson said a perfect example of Holtmann’s touch occurred when guard Andrew Dakich threw the ball away at a critical time in a big game.

“What did you see during the timeout?” Patterson said. “Teammates ran straight toward Dakich and tried to pick him up. That was coaching right there. Champions become champions because they carry themselves like champions every single day. Everyone has to be responsible every single day.”

Holtmann and Patterson talked plenty when Holtmann took the job at Gardner-Webb in 2010. The team had losing seasons three of the previous four years, but three years later he won 21 games.

“Do today well — you do that and eventually the end game happens,” Holtmann said. “You try to be as process-driven as you possibly can. We all get evaluated on the end game, but it’s the every day.”

Many OSU fans might have thought “here we go again’’ when the team blew a 15-point lead in the final five minutes in losing 67-66 in overtime to Butler in late November. Not Patterson.

“I was sick when they got beat, but I said this is not all bad because this is what Chris does so well,” Patterson said. “That team was tested and you have to believe in the team thing. Chris is competitive, and this was just another challenge.”