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New Ohio State men's basketball coach Chris Holtmann finalizes staff; roster rebuild under way

By ADAM JARDY The Columbus Dispatch Published: June 15, 2017 4:00 AM
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Early this morning, former Butler assistant coach Ryan Pedon became the third and final member of Holtmann's staff to update his Twitter page to identify himself as a coach at Ohio State. In a tweet posted at 3:09 a.m., Holtmann posted his thanks to the Butler family with a picture of Hinkle Fieldhouse. His profile picture has also been updated to the Ohio State logo.

That indicates that he will be joining Terry Johnson and Mike Schrage in following Holtmann to the Buckeyes after he was officially named the new coach last Friday morning.

Tuesday night, a team spokesman said that the jobs would not require being posted publicly and that Ohio State had identified its candidates and was in the process of conducting background checks. Schrage was at Holtmann's introductory press conference Monday at Value City Arena.

Tuesday morning, Johnson had updated his Twitter biography to identify himself as an assistant coach at Ohio State. He has since removed the text from his profile, but sources have told The Dispatch that all three coaches would come to Ohio State unless one of them got the Butler job.

Both Pedon and Johnson were candidates to replace Holtmann at Butler, but the Bulldogs named LaVall Jordan as their new head coach Monday night. At his press conference, Holtmann would not get into specifics but indicated that his staff would be in place soon.

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"We're going to build an incredible staff, I can promise you that," he said. "Extremely excited about that. That will take place here in the coming days to weeks. It's going to happen quickly. There are some wheels in motion on some of that. There's nothing I can speak to as of right now specifically."

Pedon is a Bexley native who has been on staff at Miami University, Kent State, Toledo and Illinois and has extensively recruited Ohio. Johnson spent the last 10 years at Butler while Schrage has stops at Indiana, Duke, Mississippi and Stanford in various capacities.

Roster rebuilding likely to take time

Monday's unveiling of Chris Holtmann as the Ohio State men's basketball coach came with plenty of fanfare. But amid the good vibes and talk from players of getting an exciting new era underway came a few words of caution from athletic director Gene Smith.

He didn't wait long: They came in his opening remarks.

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"The 2017-18 season will be a year of transition that will require all of us to be supportive and patient," he said.

Smith's remarks underscored the reality that Holtmann inherits a roster that, although comprised of players who seem to present few locker-room worries, is short on numbers and was widely expected to finish in the bottom third of an increasingly deep Big Ten.

No player on the roster has been named anything higher than honorable mention all-Big Ten. Of the nine recruited scholarship players, only six have played for the Buckeyes, with a third of the roster consisting of two freshmen and Derek Funderburk, who redshirted last season.

Nearly half their scoring and rebounding is gone -- 47.6 percent and 48.1 percent.

Although Ohio State is low on bodies and proven production, senior Jae'Sean Tate said this season's team will be unified after two years of empty promises from players no longer around.

"Honestly, like the year before, we want guys who want to be here and who are willing to work hard," Tate said after Holtmann's news conference. "It actually was a sigh of relief because I knew everyone around me was here for the right reasons. There was just a different vibe in the weight room."

It's a similar message to what was repeated after the Buckeyes lost four freshmen before the 2016 offseason was more than a few days old. After last season's 17-15 record, Marc Loving ran out of eligibility, Trevor Thompson declared early for the NBA, David Bell transferred to be with his pregnant girlfriend and JaQuan Lyle quit the team for a second straight year only to have it stick this time.

The return of a healthy Keita Bates-Diop, who will take a medical redshirt for last season, will provide a boost. But projecting a return to the NCAA Tournament after consecutive misses wasn't something Holtmann was prepared to do.

"I'm not going to put a timetable (on that)," he said. "We're going to work every day to obviously play in the best tournament in the world, I can promise you that."

Given the reality of the situation, it might be the most realistic goal for the season.


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