Half of the candidates in our field are gone, including one — Colorado State’s Niko Medved — who pulled himself out of the coaching market entirely by signing a contract extension.
Did we go overboard with 15 candidates? Maybe. But readers were pretty clear in their preferences. The only mild drama involved a split opinion over Kim English, who unfortunately lost in our tiebreaker format. At the start, we wondered how much consensus would exist. Turned out, it’s more than we thought.
Maybe that changes in this round.
The format remains unchanged. We’re just deciding regional winners now. But instead of full-profiles, we’re going to compare each coach head-to-head. At the bottom of each piece is a poll, where you have 24 hours to make your preference known. The fan vote will make up 50 percent of the vote.
Who makes up the other half? The Rock M staff.
If the staff is unanimous and the fans make the same selection, easy enough. If, however, there is a consensus amongst the staff, but the fans disagree, we have a tie. To break the tie, we’ve enlisted the services of Jim Root (@2ndChancePoints), who will render the final verdict.
One half of our Final Four is already set, and today, we determine which power conference option you would prefer: Dana Altman or Chris Holtmann. Why insert Holtmann here instead of the field? Well, there are always whispers. And reviewing the Ohio State coach’s contract only adds intrigue.
Why would Chris Holtmann leave an Ohio State team that is on pace for five NCAA appearances in as many seasons, but for the COVID cancellation in 2020? Is Missouri a better job than Ohio State?
Both are valid questions.
Every spring we see surprise moves from one school to another. We’ve already seen it once with Mike White leaving the Florida Gators to coach a rival in Georgia. Perhaps to those closer to the program, it’s less of a surprise.
Nationally, it did raise some eyebrows. We’ve seen it previously with Buzz Williams moving from Marquette to Virginia Tech and later to Texas A&M. We’ve seen Frank Martin jump from Kansas State to South Carolina. It has happened before, and will assuredly happen again. We have no concrete evidence to tie Holtmann with the Mizzou job, emphasis on the word concrete.
That said, we can establish reasons why Holtmann might cast his eye elsewhere. The answer: it’s business.
Let’s walk through it.
Reason No. 1: His deal is almost up
When Holtmann was hired, he signed a $24 million contract that runs for eight seasons and lapses in 2025. Usually, a coach starts agitating for a deal with three years left. They want to prevent other programs from raising doubts with recruits that said coach will be around. Coaches also like financial security. Weird.
Reason No. 2: His roster is about to flip
This season, the Buckeyes had seven players log 35 percent of minutes or more, per KenPom. Two of them, Kyle Young and Jamari Wheeler, are out eligibility. Justin Ahrens is a senior but has a COVID year in his back pocket. E.J. Liddell? He’s going to be earning paychecks next season. Freshman guard Malaki Branham has received first round projections in various mock drafts.
It’s entirely possible that Holtmann is looking at replacing all five of those players. Granted, he has a top-five class signed and set to arrive next year in Columbus. Still, that puts a lot of pressure on Holtmann to produce next year – and comes with inherent risk as he looks for an extension.
Reason No. 3: Ohio State owns leverage
If Holtmann goes to the decision makers in Columbus requesting more money, and more years, the brain trust effectively has four options.
Option A: Do Nothing
Let things play out and address the situation next offseason. However, they may not have that benefit if Holtmann is intent on seeking longer term assurances.
Option B: Agree to an Extension
I’m not one to rely on the temperature of fans on the internet as a basis for any logic. However, Holtmann has given the faithful some reasons for trepidation. While he has earned bids every year an NCAA tournament has been held, he has yet to reach a second weekend, including a shocking loss to Oral Roberts as a two-seed a year ago.
His teams also have an annoying habit of slumping down the stretch. Over the past years a tourney has been held, the Buckeyes are a combined 13-19 in the last eight games of each campaign. Does Ohio State have the proper incentive and belief in Holtmann’s program to commit more years and more money? Do they balk? Do they come to the table? There’s a lot to consider in that discussion.
Option C: Terminate the Contract
I don’t see this as a viable option at this point, but it’s worth discussing over the longer term. After a review of his employment contract, if OSU were to terminate him this March, they would owe him over $8 million. A year from now? Nearly $6 million.
Those numbers would be offset by earnings Holtmann realized at a subsequent job, but they’re facing a similar dilemma that Mizzou did this offseason: pay a large sum to move on from a coach they no longer have confidence in. In theory, they could tie an extension to a modified buyout structure, but that takes two willing parties to execute.
Option D: Let Holtmann get hired away
If Holtmann is interested in a longer-term deal, why not look around and see what’s available? At worst, he has no takers. At best, he finds a school interested that he can use to either: leverage more money out of OSU or simply take the new job.
What protection does Ohio State have if that were to occur? Not a lot. After June of 2021, if Holtmann were to leave, he would merely owe the buyout of his assistants in the form of liquidated damages to OSU. His top paid assistant, Ryan Pedon, left to be the coach at Illinois State. As far as I can tell, his two remaining assistants, Jacob Diebler and Anthony Skinn signed two-year deals after the 2021 season, and public records show their salaries as $340,000 and $315,000 respectively.
With only one year plus remaining on those deals, a school would only need to pony up between $655,000 and $820,000 to allow Holtmann to break his contract at Ohio State (Those values depend on how long contracts run.) That’s almost unheard of for coaches at this level.
That would easily allow a new school to guarantee more money going into Holtmann’s pocket since the buyout is so low. Lower buyout? Bigger contract!
Got all that? Good.
You’ve seen the backgrounds. You’ve seen why of these deals may be realistic. You’ve seen why they may not materialize. And if you’re reading this article, you know that Butler and Ohio State have done well under Holtmann. Those same folks know that Creighton and Oregon have succeeded under Dana Altman.
Both options qualify as big names. Altman’s resume is longer on conference championships and tournament success. His resume is also longer with 30-plus seasons in the game. Holtmann has comparatively logged 11 seasons and turned in five top-25 seasons, per Ken Pomeroy.
If you’re more in the mood for a “proven” candidate, Altman probably wins. If you’re looking more for a coach who could theoretically be at Mizzou, and win, for a decade or more, Holtmann probably wins.
It’s time to cast your vote!
Which coach would you prefer to see leading Missouri next season?
This poll is closed