Gene Smith: Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann 'exceeded expectations' for 2019-20 season

Adam Jardy
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Chris Holtmann claps on the sideline during the second half of Wednesday's NCAA Division I basketball game against the Northwestern Wildcats at Value City Arena in Columbus, Oh., on Wednesday, January 13, 2021. Ohio State won the game 81-71.

Ohio State men’s basketball coach Chris Holtmann did an “exceptional job” leading the team during the 2019-20 academic year, according to his annual performance review conducted by director of athletics Gene Smith.

The report, which was obtained by an open-records request submitted by The Dispatch, shows a belief that, had an NCAA Tournament been held, the Buckeyes were positioned to make a run.

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“Had there been post season play, it was clear this team had a chance to accomplish something special coming out of the best league in the country,” Smith wrote on June 12. “Chris’s ability to put the players in position to be successful on the floor is a direct result of his outstanding coaching. He is an excellent teacher, who the players connect with and enjoy playing for.

“The academic achievements, behavior of the student athletes, competitiveness of the team on the floor, his personnel management of coaches, and support staff was excellent!! The recruitment of players with character, who fit our academic mission, and are outstanding players continues to be an exemplar for him.”

Among his accomplishments for the year, Holtmann listed being the fourth team in program history to record at least four top-10 wins, climbing “out of the APR danger zone of postseason ineligibility. Yes!!!”, being ranked as high as No. 2 in the poll and also believing that a postseason run was ahead.

“While nothing is guaranteed in the Tournament, I will say I felt as confident going into the B1G and NCAA Tournament as any team I’ve coached,” Holtmann wrote. “Simlar (sic) to our Sweet 16 season in 2017 at Butler.”

One of Holtmann’s accomplishments has been redacted, as has a portion of his response when asked to list his strengths.

“Feel strongly about the development (sic) from 1 year to the next of several of our players and they deserve a ton of credit,” he wrote. The remainder of that answer is then redacted.

Smith concluded that Holtmann’s performance exceeded expectations for the year, one that included the shutdown of the season and the loss of DJ Carton, Alonzo Gaffney and Luther Muhammad to offseason transfers.

“As we look to the future, continuing the connection with the players is critical as we manage this new normal of transfers,” Smith wrote. “Chris has managed this new culture excellently, but it will need to be a continued issue to focus on.”

For his opportunities for improvement, Holtmann addressed the challenges of roster building.

“In an ever-changing landscape of college basketball with earlier professionalization, increased transfer numbers, etc; we need to continue to work and adapt towards as much roster stability as possible,” he wrote.

Holtmann also referenced his team’s 2-5 record in January games in the Big Ten.

“We have to be better in the rough stretches of BIG play,” he wrote. “Obviously the last 2 years that has been January. I'm disappointed in myself on our Jan. play.”

Holtmann was judged to have met expectations in every measurable category:  job knowledge, productivity and quality of work, communication, teamwork, personal conduct and accountability, leadership, management, academic success of program, competitive success of program, commitment to compliance, student-athlete welfare, budget management and public relations/donor relations.