Men's basketball | Taylor University inducts Chris Holtmann into athletics hall of fame
It has been nearly 30 years and Chris Holtmann can still vividly recall the conversation.
From the basement of his house in Nicholasville, Kentucky, Holtmann could hear his father, John, on the phone with the man whom the high school standout wanted to be his college coach — Paul Patterson of NAIA Taylor University.
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He was telling Patterson why his son wouldn’t be playing for the Trojans.
“They didn’t offer quite enough scholarship money,” Holtmann said last week at Big Ten media day in Chicago. “I guess my coach (Patterson) said, ‘This is all we can do.’ My dad said, ‘Are you sure? Because you’re going to lose my son if you can’t offer any more money.’ I’m hearing all this and thinking, ‘Dad, I do not want to go anywhere else other than Taylor.’ ”
Patterson couldn’t budge, Holtmann said, and it would be two years before he could make his way to Taylor. The journey paid off in a big way Saturday, when Holtmann was inducted into the school’s athletics hall of fame in Upland, Indiana, for a two-year career in which he earned first-team NAIA All-America honors as a senior.
First, though, were two years at Brescia University, a Catholic institution in Owensboro, Kentucky, where Holtmann’s 203 assists during the 1991-92 season are still the second-most in program history. Then it was onto Taylor, where he had 936 points, 229 assists and a program-best .478 three-point shooting percentage and was a two-time all-district selection.
Patterson, who retired in 2013, was on hand for the festivities. He had helped Holtmann realize that his career aspirations were to become a coach. And not just any coach — the coach at Taylor. It’s why Holtmann eventually earned a master’s degree from nearby Ball State: to coach at that level, it was a necessity.
“I didn’t ever necessarily think that I would be a major college coach,” Holtmann said before his first season at Ohio State. “I just planned to do this as well as I could. My dream job was always coaching at Taylor University if I could.”
He did, at least in some capacity — Holtmann spent the 1997-98 season as a graduate assistant under Patterson and served as an assistant there from 1999 to 2003 before moving onto Gardner-Webb as an assistant.
Now he’s preparing for his second season at Ohio State.
“Year two has always been my hardest year taking over a program,” he said. “I don’t want to project or foreshadow, but you’re dealing with all the transition and you want to get there a little quicker than maybe what you’re ready for. It’s been really good to be settled in Columbus, for one.”