Last month I wrote an article expressing the frustrations of a significant section of the Butler fanbase regarding how Chris Holtmann left Butler for Ohio State. It was an instant hit, and I was flooded with positive feedback from Bulldog fans. I managed to capture their feelings perfectly and fans didn’t hesitate to help spread it across the internet. From a traffic standpoint, it was easily the most successful article I’ve ever written for this site.
Then I got an email from Chris Holtmann. He had been forwarded the article and wanted to address several inaccuracies. While I may have accurately captured the feelings and complaints of the fans, that doesn’t mean they were actually valid.
College basketball is like an iceberg. Only a small fraction is visible above the surface. Much of what goes on underneath is completely invisible to the fans, and what is seen is often distorted without proper perspective. I didn’t do Coach Holtmann justice by publicizing and spreading frustrations that were based on incomplete or completely inaccurate information. He wanted a chance to set the record straight.
So I got the chance to ask him about his decision and find out how things really happened. No more rumors, here’s what Coach Holtmann himself had to say about his decision to leave Butler and join Ohio State.
Explain the timeline for your negotiations with Ohio State. When in the process did you send out the now infamous tweet and what changed after you sent it?
"I was contacted on Tuesday morning. The search firm called again that afternoon and offered the job contingent upon a meeting with the OSU AD. I spoke with Gene Smith briefly over the phone on Wednesday morning and he asked if we could meet. I told him I wasn't ready or prepared to meet. Later in the day I told the search firm I was leaning toward staying at Butler and couldn't meet.
On Wednesday night when I sent the tweet out that was based on the decision I had made at that time. It was ill timed and regrettable. I certainly wish I hadn't sent it. I simply changed my mind after sleeping on the decision. I was contacted early Thursday AM and asked if I would reconsider. I made the final decision late on Thursday night."
Was Butler aware from the beginning that you planned on taking all 3 assistants with you? How much would that have changed if one of them had been awarded the head coaching job at Butler?
"In the coaching profession it is frowned upon if you don't at least invite your assistants to join you if you take a new job. Sometimes that happens and sometimes it doesn't. Assistants are not guaranteed positions with the new coach. Terry and Ryan were both interviewed and I was hopeful one of them would get it. Obviously it would have changed things if they were hired. Mike decided to join me right away and Terry and Ryan both said they would like to come if they were not hired at Butler. Of course there was no reason to keep any of this from Butler, it's pretty common in these transitions."
What did you tell the returning players and incoming recruits before you left Butler?
"I'm not going to get into any specifics about what I told our returning players when I called them Friday morning. It will remain a private moment between us. They are an amazing collection of people. As for the recruits, I simple told them I was sorry and they needed to see things through with Butler, that Barry would make a great hire and that he would be in touch with them soon. I also told them I wouldn't be able to contact, talk or text during the process."
The Indianapolis Star reported that you said you wanted Butler to keep the recruiting class together. Is that accurate, and if so, why did you end up recruiting Kyle Young to Ohio State?
"Yes. I did say that. I think if you look at previous situations, to maintain 80% of your recruiting class is a major success and a real credit to LaVall, his staff and the process. Kyle's situation was unique given his family situation, his relationship with Ryan and myself over the last 2 years, the fact that he was very seriously considering Ohio State before, as well as the fact that he lives so close. Kyle made it very clear to me when I told him I was leaving that he probably wasn't coming to Butler and there was almost no chance if Ryan wasn't named head coach. I told him to see the process through with Butler with an open mind. I'm not sure if people fully understand, given his family situation, how close that relationship became, and that's fine. Some people will get that, some won't."
An uncommitted recruit quoted you as talking about how Ohio State would be a better opportunity than Butler. Have you told any recruits this? How do you respond when recruits ask why you are at Ohio State now instead of Butler?
"I have never mentioned any other schools to recruits. If anyone asks I'm honest. It was a very difficult decision and I left an incredible place and school for a great opportunity here at OSU. That's all I've ever said publicly and privately to anyone."
There was a tweet that got a lot of attention that claimed the $3 million yearly OSU salary would nearly triple your salary and sourced your agent. It was later deleted for being incorrect. Do you know anything about this tweet, where the info came from, or why it was sent out?
“I have no idea where that tweet came from. It did not come from myself or anyone connected to me. To be honest, I'm not aware of what you are mentioning. It's an uncomfortable topic but I realize people are curious. For anyone to insinuate that I, or anyone connected to me, somehow leaked false reports regarding my salary to justify the decision is completely inaccurate. I understand some media members may have checked my tax return to get a better gauge and that is their right to do that.
All I will say is I was very well compensated at Butler. I will always be very grateful to Barry, President Danko, and Butler for this. Obviously my situation was a little different early because I came in as an interim and compensation is naturally different until you prove capable of the job. I never had a problem with that. I did not triple my salary in making this move.”
How much did resources beyond salary, such as facilities, play a role in the decision to go to Ohio State? How much of a hurdle was it not having a practice facility at Butler, both in actually practicing as well as recruiting.
“I think we were resourced well at Butler. The Hinkle renovations are stunning and, while it's not my place to discuss what they may do in the future, I'm excited about the possibilities. Barry was always open when discussions regarding a practice area came up. The thing to remember is the access to Hinkle our players had is incredible and that is not the case most places. In addition, game day at Hinkle with that fan base, wow! It spoils you! While I think it's always important to be proactive when it comes to enhancements, I think we were moving in a great direction and always looked at Hinkle, as well as some of the incredible enhancements on campus (new dorms for example) as advantages in recruiting.”
How do you feel about the future of Butler basketball and what you left behind for LaVall Jordan and his staff to build off of?
“I think LaVall is outstanding. I really do. I obviously would have loved for someone from our staff to become the head coach. I was hopeful for that. I'm happy for Emerson and Brandon, however. They are high level guys. It looks like he has hired an outstanding staff.
I think we felt very good about our team and the health of our program heading into 2017-18. Perhaps as much as any time in our tenure. We were young and knew there would be expectations but recruiting had went well and high character, talented guys returned. We loved our team and players. I want to be careful though, to not project too much on LaVall and his staff, it is his team and program now. I really think there are very exciting years ahead under his leadership.”
Coach Holtmann closed with a final statement for Butler fans:
"I've always struggled with the idea that in a higher profile position it is impossible to please everyone. I understand that some people will have their thoughts and opinions and nothing I say will change it. I've come to grips with that fact. And while I had second thoughts and debated a bit with Jared on even allowing these answers to be put out there, I think it's ultimately the right thing. When you coach at Butler, relationships run deep. These last three years taught me that. Our family will always be incredibly grateful for the support of so many."