Feb. 26, 2018
COLUMBUS, Ohio – When Chris Holtmann signed on to become Ohio State’s 14th head coach in the history of the program in June, he inherited a team that finished 11th in the Big Ten in 2017 and a roster of five players returning from a 17-15 campaign.
After a 24-7 overall record, which included a 15-3 record in the Big Ten regular season, Holtmann was named the Big Ten Coach of the Year by league coaches and media Monday. He is the fifth Ohio State coach to earn the conference COY. Ohio State coaches have been named the league COY a total of eight times. Thad Matta, a three-time Big Ten COY, last claimed the accolade in 2010. He also was the COY in 2006 and 2007.
The Buckeyes, picked no better than 11th in preseason Big Ten standings, secured a No. 2 finish in the league standings and the No. 2 seed in the annual Big Ten Tournament with a double-overtime win at Indiana Feb. 23. The win was Ohio State’s sixth road victory in league play and the seventh away from home in conference play. The Buckeyes defeated Minnesota at Madison Square Garden Jan. 20.
The Buckeyes started the season 5-3 before opening the Big Ten season at Wisconsin Dec. 2, 2017. Ohio State won that game 83-58 before returning home to face Michigan Dec. 4. The Buckeyes overcame a 20-point deficit to defeat the Wolverines 71-62.
Holtmann guided the Buckeyes to a 9-0 start in league play, the most wins to open a first season in the Big Ten by a coach since 1923, a 95-year span. Included in the opening league win streak was a victory over No. 1 Michigan State in Columbus. It was Holtmann’s third career win over the No. 1 team after a pair of wins vs. No. 1 Villanova during his tenure at Butler. In the second half of the league season, Holtmann guided the Buckeyes to an equally-impressive win over No. 3 Purdue in West Lafayette. The loss was the only setback for the Boilermakers in a 16-1 home season at Mackey Arena.
The Buckeyes are led this season by a trio of 1,000 point scorers in Ohio State history. Senior Jae’Sean Tate completed his final regular season averaging 12.5 points and 6.2 boards. He has scored 1,483 career points to go with 750 career rebounds. Classmate Kam Williams scored 15 points at Indiana last week to push his career total over 1,000 (1,006). Junior Keita Bates-Diop, who sat out last season with injury, returned to the Ohio State lineup to lead in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots. He enters Big Ten Tournament play with 1,195 career points, a season scoring average of 19.2 points per game. He averaged 8.9 rebounds and a team-high 55 blocks. He was named the 2018 Big Ten Player of the Year by league coaches and media Monday as well. He also was a 2018 First Team All-Big Ten selection (coaches, media). The Buckeyes also benefited by the emergence of junior point guard C.J. Jackson, the hero of the most recent Indiana game with a late 3-pointer that proved to be the game winner in double-overtime. Jackson played more than 30 minutes a game and averaged 12.4 points while handing out 119 assists while directing the Ohio State offense. He also recorded a team-high 33 steals.
The 24 wins by the Buckeyes are the most orchestrated by a first-year coach in Ohio State history. No other Ohio State coach earned more than 19 regular-season wins in the 119-year history of the program.
Holtmann is no stranger to coach-of-the-year accolades. Now in his seventh year as a head coach, Holtmann earned Big South Coach of the Year in 2013 and claimed the Big East COY honor a year ago in his final season at Butler. Holtmann has guided his last five teams to 20 or more wins and 10 or more victories in conference play.
Ohio State’s 15 league wins this season are the most since the 2011 team finished the year with a 16-2 Big Ten Conference record.