Hooley: Miller vs. Holtmann, the first of many

posted by Bruce Hooley -

Chris Holtmann has had all the right answers so far in his first season at Ohio State

Sometimes, you know history when it happens. 

Other times, it takes awhile for the magnitude of something to emerge. 

Somewhere between that certainty and uncertainty sits the first coaching matchup of Indiana's Archie Miller and Ohio State's Chris Holtmann tonight at Value City Arena. 

Given their respective ages, and respective power positions at two Big Ten basketball programs with elite potential, this could be the first of a two-decades-or-more rivalry betweeen Miller's Hoosiers and Holtmann's Buckeyes. 

Miller, the former Dayton head coach, is 39. 

Holtmann, the former Butler head coach, is 46. 

It's not hard to envision them battling as long, or longer, than iconic Big Ten coaches Bob Knight and Gene Keady did at Indiana and Purdue from 1980-2001. 

OSU-Indiana isn't a rivalry on par with IU-Purdue. At least, not yet. 

Maybe Miller and Holtmann will make it so. 

Many Ohio State fans viewed Indiana as their chief rival during the Knight era, partially because of Knight's success and also because he played for Fred Taylor at OSU. 

Miller didn't play for the Buckeyes, but he assisted Thad Matta in Columbus from 2007-09. 

Had Ohio State fired Matta on a conventional timeline, say, after losing to Rutgers in the Big Ten Tournament in March of 2017, I believe Miller would have been the choice to take over at OSU. 

But because OSU athletic director Gene Smith dithered and delayed until dumping Matta in June, Miller had already gone to Indiana by then and Smith was fortunate Holtmann changed his mind after initially declining to pursue the Ohio State job. 

Knight and Keady met 41 times during their careers in Bloomington and West Lafayette in an era where every Big Ten team played the other home-and-home every season. 

Miller and Holtmann aren't guaranteed that, since IU and OSU will play only once this season in the league's unbalanced schedule. But it's not impossible to image the two coaches matching talents over the next two decades. 

And they'll certainly clash on the recruiting trail, given Miller's network via his Dayton background and Holtmann's contacts from his years at Butler. 

Shortly after his hiring, Miller came into Columbus and talked Pickerington North's Jerome Hunter into signing with Indiana. 

Holtmann went into Bloomington North High School and grabbed Musa Jallow, although Miller had not offered him at IU. 

All that matters, ultimately, is how Miller and Holtmann fare on the court, and not necessarily against just each other. 

After all, Keady went 21-20 against Knight in their prolonged rivalry. But Knight won two of his three national championships at IU while Keady coached at Purdue. Keady never reached even a Final Four during the Knight era. 

PHOTO:  GETTY IMAGES

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