Ohio State Basketball: Gene Smith explains making coaching change with 6 games left

COLUMBUS — Chris Holtmann is no longer the coach of the Ohio State men’s basketball team for a relatively simple reason.

His boss decided the program needed better leadership to finish out the season.

“I just felt like looking at the last couple of games — last few games, actually — that this team needed different leadership, so I made the change,” Ohio State director of athletics Gene Smith said Wednesday night at Value City Arena.

Ohio State was 12-2 after beating Rutgers at home Jan. 3, but the Buckeyes have only won twice since then.

They fell to 14-11 with a 62-54 loss Tuesday night at Wisconsin, a decision that clinched non-winning season in the Big Ten.

“My responsibility is to the program, it’s to these young men who compete every single day,” said Smith, who was nearly overcome with emotion at one point early in the press conference. “I don’t care what sport it is. Whatever it is, my responsibility is to the young people and to the program. I just felt at this particular time with six regular season games left and the Big Ten Tournament and whatever the postseason brings, a spark of energy was needed. So it’s about the program in the end, and you have to set aside your personal feelings.”

Smith elevated Jake Diebler to interim coach to close out the season, a final stretch that begins Sunday afternoon at home against second-ranked Purdue.

Holtmann finished with a 137-86 mark in his seven seasons at Ohio State.

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