Can Chris Holtmann restore a once-proud program?

Chris Holtmann considered sitting out at least a year and working in media after Ohio State fired him last month.

The opportunity to restore a once-proud program as DePaul’s new coach was one he couldn’t pass up. And he insisted he is ready for the challenge.

“We’ve got a great opportunity,” Holtmann said. “We came here as a family because we really do believe in what this place can be. We really do.”

The 52-year-old Holtmann was introduced Monday at a news conference at Wintrust Arena after being hired last week, a month after Ohio State fired him. He comes with a 251-171 record with seven NCAA Tournament appearances in 13 seasons at Gardner-Webb, Butler and Ohio State.

Holtmann led the Bulldogs to the tourney in each of his three years there and was widely viewed as a rising star in the coaching ranks when he took the job at Ohio State in 2017 after Thad Matta stepped down due to health reasons. He led the Buckeyes to a 137-86 record and four NCAA appearances.

Holtmann was Coach of the Year in the Big East and the Big Ten. But he’s taking on a big task.

DePaul hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament in 20 years and just finished one of the worst seasons in Big East history. The Blue Demons went 3-29 overall and became the first team to go 0-20 in league play. Former coach Tony Stubblefield was fired in January after two-plus seasons.

DePaul has lost 34 of 35 Big East games, counting the conference tournament. Stubblefield was 28-54 overall and 9-38 in the league.

Athletic director DeWayne Peevy said he had his eyes on Holtmann when he worked in Kentucky’s athletic department prior to getting hired by DePaul in August 2020. One of five finalists, Holtmann is the second men’s basketball coach hired by Peevy.

“I don’t feel any pressure any more than what I put on myself and the opportunity to build a program,” Peevy said. “I came here from Kentucky to win. You take the steps forward, you learn lessons and you push forward. I think if you want to be a true leader, you have to get people around you that can help you accomplish something big.”

Peevy joked “Ohio State just saved me a buyout” by firing Holtmann.

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