Thomas Manning was 10 years old when his favorite university changed men’s basketball coaches. The day the news was official, his father, Noel Thomas Manning II, brought him home a signed piece of memorabilia.

The printed press release announcing the new coach was inscribed in red ink with the message, “Thomas, Can’t wait to see you at our games! Coach Holt”

Eight years later, “Coach Holt” is now Ohio State’s men’s basketball coach and the younger Thomas has a unique souvenir from Chris Holtmann’s first head coaching job – what might be the first autograph Holtmann ever signed as a head coach.

I came across this gem as I was cleaning out a few things. Believe it or not, this was actually the first autograph @ChrisHoltmann gave out as a college basketball head coach, during his time at @gardnerwebb . An outstanding basketball coach, and an even better person!

— Thomas Manning (@TCube_Manning) May 29, 2018

“I’d always just grown up coming to Gardner-Webb sporting events,” said Thomas, whose father is the associate vice president for communications and marketing for the university. “Football and basketball were the two I mostly went to, and I always got to know the players and the coaches. My dad working in PR, of course he was pretty involved with the interview process and conveying it to the public whenever Holtmann was hired. He got to interview him and get to know him.

“He just thought he’d get me an autograph as a 10-year-old and I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. Little did I know how big-time Holtmann was going to be. It’s just been pretty incredible to see how far he’s made it.”

Now 18, Manning is preparing to start taking full-time classes at Gardner-Webb this fall. Holtmann was the head coach there from 2010-13 before leaving to take a job at Butler University. After taking the paper out of a folder where he had placed it for safekeeping, Manning posted a photo of the autograph to Twitter on Tuesday, and Holtmann replied to the tweet.

Thanks for this. Great memories for our family from our time at GWU!

— Chris Holtmann (@ChrisHoltmann) May 29, 2018

“I was very excited to see that, just knowing he still feels a connection to Gardner-Webb,” Thomas said. “That was something that my family really noticed when they were here. We’re just a small town, probably got about 2,000 people when school is not in session. He just felt like part of the community and he brought a whole lot of, I think he knew we’re pretty much just a big family in Boiling Springs.

“He just brought that whole mentality and just knowing that he’s where he is now in Columbus on a much bigger stage and he still remembers his time at Gardner-Webb and it holds a special place for him, that really means a lot to us at Gardner-Webb.”