Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Butler Interim Coach Chris Holtmann Enjoys a Huge Week (UPDATED)
By mid-January, Chris Holtmann will likely either be named the Butler head coach for the remainder of the season or he will return to his former status as an assistant coach with the Bulldogs.
A man who this week led his team to wins over No. 5 North Carolina and Big East heavyweight Georgetown could be an assistant coach by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“Obviously, your’e human and you wonder [about the future] but I’ve tried not to focus too much on it,” Holtmann, a former head coach at Gardner-Webb who was elevated to interim head coach at Butler when Brandon Miller took a medical leave of absence, told SNY.tv by phone from the Bahamas after the Bulldogs beat Georgetown, 64-58 Friday in the Battle 4 Atlantis to improve to 5-1 on the season.
(When the AP poll came out on Monday, the Bulldogs were ranked No. 23 nationally.)
Butler AD Barry Collier wasn’t immediately available by phone Friday evening but reports indicate that the head coaching situation at Butler will be resolved by mid-January. Miller initially took his leave in October, and he reportedly has 12 weeks to undergo treatment and return to his job.
“He is still on his leave of absence and in a way these teams coming rapid fire, the caliber of competition you’re playing, has kind of forced us to not of think about, to just focus on ball and that’s kind of what we’ve done,” Holtmann said.
Butler was picked tied for seventh in the Big East with Marquette. Only Creighton and DePaul were picked below the Bulldogs.
Nobody in their right mind had them beating Marcus Paige and North Carolina this week, and most people probably figured Georgetown, which took No. 2 Wisconsin to the wire in the semifinals, would take them out on Friday.
But that’s why they play the games, right?
Starting guards Kellen Dunham and Alex Barlow combined for 27 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists in the win, and the Bulldogs held Big East Preseason Player of the Year D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera to 12 points on 4-for-11 shooting.
“I think we played three really good teams,” Holtmann said, also referencing a loss to Oklahoma. “I think they’re clearly three [NCAA] Tournament teams and three teams that are going to advance in the NCAA Tournament, so to come away 2-1. We didn’t play great [against Oklahoma] and we got exposed in some areas. And we needed to address those and Oklahoma’s really good. Oklahoma had a lot to do with that.
“It’s great for our guys. It reaffirms belief in what we’re doing.”
Butler’s week was part of a larger picture in which the new-look Big East has beaten five ranked teams this year, including North Carolina, Florida, Oklahoma, VCU and Michigan. St. John’s plays No. 10 Gonzaga later Friday night in the Preseason NIT Tip-Off final.
“It’s great, I think the Big East has performed really, really, really well,” Holtmann said. “It concerns you a little bit. You’re like, damn we’re going to have our hands full here. But we’re just trying to focus on what’s in front of us.”
Whether becoming the full-time head coach is in front of Holtmann remains to be seen, but he’s sure had a helluva week as an interim.
Photo: Butler Athletics
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.