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Men’s basketball: Players excited for beginning of Chris Holtmann era

OSU junior forward Jae-Sean Tate (1) watches as redshirt junior guard Kam Williams (15) prepares to shoot a free throw during the Buckeyes 78-68 win over Navy in their season opener on Nov. 11. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo Editor

A coaching change can bring about a lot of uncertainty in returning players. Especially when the coaching change happens just at the beginning of summer workouts.

As such, it was important to Ohio State men’s basketball head coach Chris Holtmann to meet with the team shortly after being hired to sit down and talk with the entire team about his vision for the program.

“Gene and I were just so adamant about making that happen because these days, there’s so much coming at you. I just don’t want the really important stuff to get ignored. And they’re the really important stuff,” Holtmann said. “So I’ve tried to focus on that in these few days as I’ve been hit from all different angles.”

The decision to go speak with the players, though nothing more than a simple discussion with his team, sent a powerful message to Holtmann’s squad.

He gave us a great impression for that first day, that first meeting,” redshirt junior forward Keita Bates-Diop said. “He said he flew back just to meet us. That gave us a great impression that he’s trying to get a great connection with us early.”

The meeting with Holtmann did more than just establish an early relationship between the players and new coach. It also eased what had been several days of unease for the players.

“It was really the unknown that was killing us,” Bates-Diop said. “Like, who’s it going to be? What’s going to happen? It happened all so fast. We didn’t know what to do. So then when they finally announced that it was going to be him, it was a relief.”

The first step of the meeting between the two was a group discussion where the players all had an opportunity to ask Holtmann questions and learn more about him, Bates-Diop said. The answers provided to their questions served as a foundation for the players, as they had an opportunity to learn more about the coach and his family, as well as any details about future assistant coaches, recruitment plans and style of play.

“I definitely just wanted to know what his goals were for the team,” senior forward Jae-Sean Tate said. “I wanted to know what kind of coach he was and everything he said in the meeting, I was excited to be able to be coached by him this year.”

And though the players still have a long way to go in connecting with their new leader, and will require some time to fully adjust to the change in leadership from Thad Matta to Holtmann, Tate said his team is excited for the season to begin and looking forward to working with Holtmann.

“I would just like to say that although coach Matta’s era has ended,” Tate said, “the team and I are looking at this as a new era and we’re going to be the first ones to be able to start a new era for coach Holtmann and we’re very excited for that.”

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