Chris Holtmann had just decided to take the job as Ohio State’s men’s basketball coach. He hadn’t even gotten a new cell phone number yet when the phone from his prior job at Butler rang.
It was Urban Meyer, calling to introduce himself and offer his best wishes. Tuesday, as Meyer announced his retirement and Holtmann was preparing for the unique challenge presented by Illinois’ defense, the men’s basketball coach said he was appreciative of how his now-former colleague and his family helped welcome him to the Buckeyes.
“For me, Urban has been tremendous,” Holtmann told The Dispatch. “Shelley has been tremendous to my wife, Lori. He’s been a guy that I’ve certainly admired for years. He’s been tremendous from day one.”
>>Read more: Ohio State football | Urban Meyer to step down as coach after Rose Bowl
Hired in June of 2017, Holtmann has continued to embrace the football program at Ohio State while helping get the men’s basketball team back among the upper crust of the Big Ten. Once he was hired, he began to take opportunities to learn from Meyer on how to build a program and about what the university can mean to people.
During the summer, for instance, Holtmann said he was borrowing Meyer’s “Real Life Wednesdays” program and adapting it to his players. They called it “Beyond Hoops.”
“When I got a chance to be around here, obviously I imagined being around him and being able to learn for a number of years,” Holtmann said. “We’ve had a chance to spend some time together and he’s been, whether it’s been talking to a recruit or just sharing thoughts, he’s been great.
“I wouldn’t say our relationship has grown to where we’re close friends because I just got here, but he really has been tremendous from day one to me and Shelley’s been tremendous to my wife.”
Holtmann said he hopes to repay the favor and connect with new football coach Ryan Day at some point in the near future.
>>Read more: Why Ryan Day gets to replace Urban Meyer
After a win at St. John Arena the night before the football team’s home game against Michigan this year, Holtmann came to his postgame press conference in a No. 45 football jersey and predicted an Ohio State win. After the Buckeyes were left out of the college football playoff, Holtmann addressed it later that night at the end of his press conference after a 20-point win against Minnesota in the team’s Big Ten opener.
“I do have one last thing,” he said. “There’s a few things I don’t understand in life. I don’t understand why airlines overbook their flights when they know how many seats they have. I don’t understand how Rocky III never got an Academy Award.”
Then he paused for dramatic effect before delivering the payoff.
“I can’t for the life of me understand how we are No. 6 in the final college football playoff ranking,” he said. “I don’t get it. I’m out.”
In his press conference announcing his retirement, Meyer said he plans to remain around the program and in the area. Holtmann said he’s hoping that their relationship will continue to grow.
“I think that who he is as a coach, it’s really cool seeing former players come back,” he said. “Who he is as a coach and a person, I think, I’m excited to hopefully continue to get to know him. He’s had an incredible legacy in coaching and I know he’s a tremendous family man and I really wish him and his family well.”