Hooley: Chris Holtmann burns to win, but does OSU?

Chris Holtmann's resume has everything necessary to inspire enthusiasm among OSU's fan base

I know you've heard the phrase, it's better to be lucky than good.

That's what I think of when I reflect on Ohio State's basketball coaching search that resulted in the hiring of Chris Holtmann as head coach.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith got lucky...lucky that he ended up with a good coach after not having someone locked up when he fired Matta...lucky Creighton's Greg McDermott turned OSU down, lucky Holtmann said yes when re-approached after initially turning it down, and lucky Ohio State has so many built-in advantages that a coach like Holtmann was willing to listen this late in a process that should have happened in March.

Now Smith will have to get lucky again...lucky enough for Holtmann to prove a better coach for OSU over the next decade than Archie Miller will be at Indiana over that same span and beyond.

Miller should be the coach at Ohio State today. He would be, if Smith had acted decisively three months ago.

But as I said, Smith got lucky, and Holtmann is a hire that allows Ohio State to win the press conference and generate initial enthusiasm that hopefully will translate into an elite class of in-state recruits signing with him and the Buckeyes this fall.

We could be talking about a very different hire if McDermott had accepted Smith's offer early last week after Holtmann turned OSU down.

McDermott would have likely been a disaster. His four losing seasons at Iowa State, a program that won consistently before his arrived and after he left, was a red flag that everyone but Gene Smith recognized as a terrible fit for OSU.

I believe Indianapolis Star columnist Gregg Doyel's reports that Ohio State initially offered Holtmann a six-year deal, which he turned down. Then they offered seven years, and he said no again. Finally, after McDermott also rejected an offer, OSU gave Holtmann the eight-year, $24 million deal he wanted.

It's clear to me what happened here. Ohio State was trying to cut costs to mitigate against the $9 million it still owes Thad Matta.

Which brings me to two troublesome questions"

1. Do you think OSU would ever try to save on hiring a football coach.

2. Do you think Ohio State really wants to be great in basketball?

The answer to question one is, no. There's no way Ohio State would ever pinch pennies on a football hire. Urban Meyer makes over $6 million annually, and several of his assistants make $1 million or more.

As for the second question: Does Ohio State want to be great in basketball? I think the answer is, yes.

But I don't think the school burns to be great in men's hoops. I don't think it's unacceptable to university brass if OSU is good in basketball, but not consistenly great. It's OK if the Buckeyes are great, but it's up to the coach to drive that desire and push the envelope.

The school will go along for the ride, but it won't insist on greatness and accept nothing less, as is the case in football. An NCAA berth 3 out of 4 years, a Sweet Sixteen appearance twice every five years, a Final Four berth every 7-10 years and a consistent Top 25 ranking will probably allow Chris Holtmann to keep his job for a nice long time.

I'm hoping against hope that's not enough for him. I know he took the job because he deemed it one of a handful you just cannot turn down when offered. And the only reason you put Ohio State in that category is because you believe it has everything necessary to win the ultimate prize.

So I wish you well, Chris Holtmann. I will do everything I can to help you. I'm not sure your bosses care enough to make you the same promise.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

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