11:32 AM

​Season of surprises: What’s the secret to Coach Chris Holtmann’s success?

Ohio State men’s basketball head coach Chris Holtmann earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Taylor University – and some of the lessons he learned in the classroom he’s brought to the court.

“I don't know that I’ve ever looked back and said, ‘okay, I'm going to remember that theory and how that applies.’ But I do think that there is certainly an emotional intelligence component to successful coaches,” Holtmann said. “I think in some ways psychology is a part of that. How do we think? How do we respond? What is our environment like? How does that shape us as players, as people?”

The 16th-ranked Buckeyes are the surprise team of the Big Ten season. An experienced and healthy team are behind their bounce-back season, and so is their new coach.

His team plays their final home game tonight against Rutgers. They are within striking distance of a regular season Big Ten Championship, and the successful turnaround can be attributed to his connection to his players.

Holtmann can relate as a former player. He was an NAIA All-American guard at Taylor.

“Most of us are former athletes and we appreciate the discipline and the demands that were placed on us in the sport,” he said. “And I think most of us get into (coaching) because we feel like those lessons that we learned, hopefully we can share with the younger generation and it can be a part of how we coach.”

Those lessons can last a lifetime. Assistant coach Terry Johnson followed Holtmann to Ohio State from Butler. He said they are teaching life skills in addition to basketball drills.

“You want to communicate a lot. And I like to think of it as positive communication,” Johnson said.

That can mean tough love sometimes, he said, while also understanding to whom he is speaking.

“One thing with this generation of athletes, you have to show them you genuinely care about them,” he said.

Holtmann said being great on the basketball court usually means these players are well-rounded.

“When I think of the best teams I’ve been a part of, guys have understood that they’re students first and that they’ve got business they’ve got to take care of,” he said. “We really try to emphasize the importance of being a student, taking care of your business and being responsible in that area. And usually those guys that are most responsible in school, that translates into being responsible and conscientious on the floor.”