Nationally, few teams have experienced a rise quite like Ohio States.
The Buckeyes entered the 2020-21 season ranked 23rd in the nation by Associated Press top-25 voters, sandwiched between UCLA and Rutgers. Big Ten reporters projected the Buckeyes would finish seventh within the conference, per an unofficial poll conducted by The Athletic and the Columbus Dispatch. Questions popped up about how the team would fare while integrating numerous new players after losing Kaleb Wesson, Andre Wesson, Luther Muhammad, Alonzo Gaffney and DJ Carton. Some wondered whether the offseason attrition spoke to a larger issue within the program.
Internally, however, Ohio State coaches and staffers felt confident in the team now ranked No. 4 in the country with a 17-4 overall record and 11-4 mark within the Big Ten. End-of-year performance reviews of people within the program after the 2019-20 season obtained by Eleven Warriors via a public-records request filed on Aug. 10 and returned on Tuesday paint the picture of a staff led by head coach Chris Holtmann that felt confident with the direction the Buckeyes were heading.
Athletic director Gene Smith deemed that Holtmann exceeded expectations on his performance review after last season.
Chris did (an) exceptional job with all phases leading our mens basketball program, Smith wrote. The academic achievements, behavior of the student athletes, competitiveness of the team on the floor, his personnel management of coaches, and support staff was excellent! The recruitment of players with character, who fit our academic mission, and are outstanding players continues to be an exemplar for him. Had there been post season play, it was clear this team had a chance to accomplish something special coming out of the best league in the country. Chriss ability to put the players in position to be successful on the floor is a direct result of his outstanding coaching. He is an excellent teacher, who the players connect with and enjoy playing for.
As we look to the future, continuing the connection with the players is critical as we manage this new normal of transfers. Chris has managed this new culture excellently, but it will need to be a continued issue to focus on.
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Holtmann described the Buckeyes great chemistry the last 2 month of the season as a strength. Ohio State, which he called a balanced team on offense and defense, finished last season by winning nine of its last 12 games to go 21-10 overall and 11-9 in conference play. He noted the tremendous non-conference performance when the Buckeyes beat Villanova, Cincinnati, North Carolina and Kentucky. He mentioned feeling strongly about the development from 1 year to the next of several of our players and they deserve a ton of credit.
He also wrote: After 3 years (2 1000s and another solid one) we have climbed out of the APR danger zone of postseason ineligibility. Yes!!!
Not all was perfect, of course.
Holtmann brought up the 2-6 start in Big Ten play, writing that it was too much to overcome to challenge for the league championship. He noted his disappointment in himself for back-to-back rough stretches in January and mentioned the need to continue to work and adapt toward as much roster stability as possible in what he described as an ever-changing landscape of college basketball with earlier professionalization, increased transfer numbers, etc, clearly referring to the players who left.
Yet, both he and Smith were pleased with how the season had gone and where the program was trending, based on their comments in the documents.
Obviously the most unique season I have been a part of with the pandemic, Holtmann wrote in a performance review he signed on July 31. As I mentioned earlier, I would have loved seeing how we could have finished the season given how we were playing in FEB/MARCH and our chemistry and ability as a team. While an incomplete season and one with certainly some difficult moments on and off the floor, it was a fun and rewarding group to coach! Really enjoyed it.
Holtmann graded all three of his assistant coaches Pedon, Terry Johnson and Jake Diebeler as exceeding expectations in 2020-21. He evaluated director of professional development Terence Dials, special assistant to the head coach Mike Netti and director of basketball operations David Egelhoff as having exceeded expectations and coordinator of recruiting and operations Kyle Davis as having met expectations. Strength and conditioning coach Quadrian Banks was evaluated by Mickey Marotti and Heather Mason as meeting expectations.
Heres what the head coach wrote when evaluating each of his assistants:
- Holtmann on Pedon: Ryan continues to do good work for our program. He is complete in his efforts as a coach and recruiter. He is gifted in both areas. We look forward to Ryans continued excellent contributions to Ohio State basketball.
- On Johnson: Terry had a good year again with our program. He does a really good job in his role of game prep and regarding a defensive game plan. He has a great understanding of how we want to do things. Excellent at connecting with our players. He continues to grow in a few of the areas we have discussed. He is a really valued member of our staff.
- On Diebler: Jake had a really good 1st year as an assistant. I think it was an adjustment for him coming from his role at Vanderbilt but he adapted very well and excelled in his role and as a recruiter and teacher while learning our system and program culture. Jake provides great energy, work ethic and curiosity as a coach. Im really excited about his future on our staff.
After an incomplete season followed by five player departures, Holtmann and his staff members saw the positives to build on. They felt pleased with where the program was going.
Now, their visions of success are playing out in front of their eyes while in charge of a top-five team in the country.
I feel good about the competitive success of our program, Pedon wrote in his July review. We have worked our way into a position where I believe we can compete with (and beat) any team in the country.
The full 2019-20 performance reviews: Chris Holtmann Ryan PedonTerry JohnsonJake DieblerTerence DialsDavid EgelhoffKyle DavisQuadrian BanksMike Netti