Ohio State men's basketball | Jon Coffman credits Chris Holtmann for Purdue Fort Wayne job
Ohio State and Purdue Fort Wayne had never met on the hardwood until Sunday afternoon at Value City Arena, but that did not mean their coaches were unfamiliar with one another.
The fact that Jon Coffman was on the bench leading the Mastodons against the Buckeyes is in some part a credit to Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann. The story, as Coffman told it after Ohio State’s 107-61 win, goes back roughly seven years ago, when Coffman was an assistant coach on Emmett Davis’ staff at Colgate.
It was in mid-March of 2011 that the 51-year-old Davis was informed that the staff would not be retained after the Raiders went 7-23 overall and 4-10 in the Patriot League. That meant Coffman and his family were suddenly part of the coaching carousel that is the spring in men’s college basketball, and it wasn’t a lot of fun.
“I’m scrambling,” Coffman said after the game. “My wife’s pregnant. My son’s 3 years old. We’re trying to figure out, I love coaching, I want to stay in it. My wife’s from Lima, Ohio, and we’ve been wanting to get back to the Midwest.”
It was then that Holtmann gave him a call.
“Chris calls me and says, ‘Hey, I’ve got a friend at IPFW that just got a head coaching job. I called them and recommended you. I think you’ve got a really good shot at that. He’s looking for someone with your profile,’ ” Coffman said.
Holtmann was friends with Tony Jasick, who had just gotten the head coaching job at Purdue Fort Wayne, known then as Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW). Jasick, who is now in his fifth season as the coach at Jacksonville and has Ohio State transfer David Bell on his roster, took the call and listened to Holtmann talk about Coffman.
Holtmann and Coffman were both assistant coaches at the same time – Holtmann at Gardner Webb and Coffman at Stetson – in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
“He’s done a great job (at Purdue Fort Wayne),” Holtmann said. “I can’t say that I’ve watched their teams a lot but I have followed him. We’ve talked a lot of basketball. He’s got a lot of great ideas on the game.”
The meaningfulness of the unsolicited phone call to Jasick from Holtmann was not lost on Coffman, who felt he had no shot at the job. Holtmann was in his second season as the head coach of Gardner Webb at the time.
“I said, ‘Chris, I’ve got no chance. You know how this business works. You’ve got to know somebody,’ ” Coffman said. “He said, ‘No, no, I really sold you. I really think this is a good fit.’ I end up getting the job, three years later I’m a Division I head coach after 16 years as an assistant and I’m blessed to have great friends like Chris. Now, I questioned that in the second half with how his team shot the ball.
“He’s pretty special. You’re going to see that on the floor with how he produces but if you get the opportunity to really get to know him, you’re going to meet the friend that I have and I’m just blessed to have that friendship.”