There are only so many times that one can dance on the edge of a decision before they slip and fall and that is reportedly what has happened with Butler men's basketball coach Chris Holtmann.
Multiple sources on social media are reporting that the Bulldog coach has emerged as the leading candidate to replace former Butler player and coach Thad Matta at Ohio State.
Now to be truthful, social media reporting on a coaching search generally is incorrect in pursuing the topic, so intimating Holtmann going to Columbus is a done deal would be foolish until you get the official release stating so. However, Holtmann has spoken with too many programs during his short time at Butler to dismiss the notion that he'd leave the Bulldogs, and to be fair, Ohio State is a far better opportunity than any that have courted Holtmann previously.
If the Ohio State job is offered to Holtmann, I believe that he will take it. But that is a far cry from he should take it, which I don't think he should.
Why Holtmann would leave Butler
There are a number of advantages that being the coach at Ohio State will provide Holtmann and his family, the most notable, to many (but not me), are the millions of dollars he'll annually reap from being at a Big Ten university with a massive football program. Holtmann will nearly triple his annual salary in Columbus.
In addition, being at Ohio State will allow the coach the financial resources to run his program with nary a hurdle. Whatever Holtmann wants or needs, he will be given on a moment's notice.
There will be no instance where he loses an assistant coach to Nebraska like he did with former Butler assistant Michael Lewis.
The Butler athletic leadership does what it can to provide Holtmann the opportunity for success, but there are financial limits to being at Butler. All you have to do is walk into the West Gymnasium of Hinkle Fieldhouse and view the paint peeling from the walls, the outdated banners covering those walls, and the poor acoustics (in terms of coaching and teaching), to see the difference between a program like Ohio State and Butler.
At Ohio State, anything Holtmann views as a slight impediment to success will be addressed with immediacy. At Butler, he has to learn to live with not a lot, but some, obstacles.
The Buckeyes are the university within a state that has nearly twice as many people as Indiana. Though Butler has been the most successful men's basketball program for nearly 30 years within this state, the Bulldogs will never have the cache of Indiana University, and it still has to battle for publicity, notoriety, and sometimes recruits, with Purdue, and to a slight degree, even Notre Dame.
If Ohio State wants to get in on a recruit in Ohio, it is in. Period. That definitely is not the case with Butler and recruits in Indiana.
In most instances, it will be easier to sell recruits on a men's basketball program that lacks for absolutely nothing in terms of resources and facilities, has elite football to lift its profile and finances, and possesses a 66,000-plus enrollment spread over its behemoth campus.
As an institution, Butler is constructing new buildings at an insane pace; but it is what it is; which is a smaller, private university with small college football. That appeals to some, but not most, young people.
All of those advantages will put Holtmann in a better position to be elite nationally than at Butler, which at the end of the day, is probably the nail in Butler's coffin for keeping Holtmann.
Anyone who watched the Bulldogs' NCAA Tournament loss to eventual national champion North Carolina this spring could see the difference between a nationally elite program and a pretty good one, which is what Butler is.
It will be very difficult for Holtmann to land potential NBA players at Butler, but it won't be at Ohio State. The Buckeyes have all of the necessary tools to be an elite program nationally on an annual basis, which, ironically, is precisely why Holtmann should remain at Butler.
Why Holtmann should remain at Butler
Holtmann told me this spring that he was a guy “that wants to coach a long time, not just sit on a pile of money.” He was explaining his thought process in remaining at Butler despite the numerous overtures that have come his way through recent springs.
However, in order to “coach a long time” at Ohio State, he better win at an astounding rate or he'll be fired.
Buckeye athletic director Gene Smith just got rid of the most successful coach in Ohio State history. The precedent has been laid out: Five Big Ten titles (four more Big Ten Tournament championships) and a pair of Final Four appearances won't be enough to keep Holtmann employed.
Now to Smith's defense, Ohio State hasn't finished better than fifth in the league in four years, so perhaps he won't hold Holtmann to such an extreme as he did Matta. But there is no reason to believe that he won't.
There is no arguing this point, the likelihood of Holtmann being employed at Butler (if he chooses to remain) five years from now is a virtual certainty, I'm not sure he can say that if he leaves for Ohio State.
Not only will the pressure be turned up internally on Holtmann, it will be ratcheted to another degree externally like he can't fathom.
At Butler, Holtmann has a small cadre of media (myself included) that generally treat him with kid gloves. At Ohio State, those gloves will be off.
If Holtmann doesn't turn the Buckeyes around – and I mean quickly – Smith won't be the only one asking the coach hard questions on a daily basis. And that will affect him. Trust me, I know the guy.
Holtmann is beloved at Butler; he should never underestimate the importance of comfort and happiness in his life and that of his family, which brings me back to the topic of money.
Raising Holtmann's annual income from the low seven figures to over $3 million won't impact his daily existence in any way. It may impact his great-grandkids' lives, but not his.
The only place Holtmann will notice a difference will be when his financial advisor reads his quarterly statement to him.
Making over $1 million in Indianapolis affords Holtmann and his family every possible benefit in life that they could wish for.
Nice home? Check.
Lifetime financial security? Check.
Great school for their daughter, Nora? Check.
Summer lake home? Check.
Nice vacations? Check. Check.
There is nothing that the Holtmann family could possibly long for that moving to Columbus provides more so than their current situation, which in the end, is what Holtmann has to weigh.
Is chasing a national championship his ultimate goal? At any price? If so, then take the Ohio State job.
However, if personal and professional happiness and comfort mean anything to him and his family, he should stay right where he is.
What being at Butler has provided Holtmann and his family can't be bought with money.
This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Tom Davis at Tdavis@news-sentinel.com.
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