Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith retiring

Ohio State AD Gene Smith Discusses Decision To Fire Chris Holtmann

COLUMBUS — Ohio State athletics director Gene Smith held a press conference early Wednesday evening to discuss the firing of men’s basketball coach Chris Holtmann. Smith discussed why the decision was made now, what the expectations of the OSU program should be, what the next steps moving forward will be, and much more. The highlights of everything that was said can be found below.

  • Smith felt like after the last couple of games that the team needed a change.
  • It’s hard to fire somebody. Long pause. “It’s just really hard.” When you have good people that you care about, then it’s hard. When you don’t care about someone, then it’s easier.
  • The process now with Ross Bjork? He’s had good communications with Bjork along the way about his decision. They have talked about the process moving forward.
  • Does he have “a list?” That’s a great question for Ross Bjork.
  • “My responsibility is to the program and to these young men that compete every day. I don’t care what sport it is…” his responsibility is to the athletes and the university. “It’s about the program in the end and I have to set aside my personal feelings.”
  • Why does the plan from a couple of years ago about building with youth not work now? The team has played hard but the body of work over the past year has shown him that they need something different in terms of leadership. They still have a shot to have a good season and he wanted them to have that chance with new leadership.
  • What will his role be moving forward? He’ll help Jake Diebler navigate the situation. Ross Bjork will share with Gene the plan for the new search and Gene will be part of the search to help him out.
  • This was Gene Smith’s decision.
  • Any regrets about the extension two years ago? “Of course you do.” He has many regrets in his life and that’s one of them.
  • How much more difficult is it to be a head coach now than it was when Holtmann was hired? It’s more difficult for all coaches now because of the transfer portal, NIL, the uncertainty of the future of the amateur model.
  • Not going to get into his conversations or ultimatums with Chris Holtmann.
  • What is the standard for this program right now? “There’s nothing that’s changed in any of our sports. Nothing’s changed. All of our programs have the same standard.” “Be in the hunt, periodically win the (conference) championship, and go deep into the postseason. That hasn’t been accomplished.”
  • The conversations with OSU president Ted Carter? “President Carter is unbelievable.” He has an athletic background. The conversations were straightforward. “He’s a decision maker.”
  • What recommendations will he make to Ross Bjork about the overall fan experience of men’s basketball since it has “died on the vine?” “You guys are opinion makers.” Don’t say it’s “died on the vine.” There were still 8,000 fans at the last game. You have to have expectations that are set in reality. There were 8-10,000 fans at some games under Thad Matta. But there need to be more games that are closer to sellouts. The key is product, place, price.
  • Smith is going to be all-in with Ross Bjork on this new hire. But they have to fit their values and their culture.
  • Why was now the time to pull the plus? It was something he’s been thinking of for a little bit. Thankful for Jake Diebler stepping up because what he’s going to be doing is not easy, “so my heart is with him to a great degree.”
  • Does this move now put the program in a position of strength in the search? “It’s not a huge gain because you cannot begin to really talk to candidates until the end of the season.” This was more about trying to give the kids a spark.

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