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Holtmann hired to coach DePaul a month after being fired by Ohio State

FILE - Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann gestures in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Illinois, Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024, in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State fired seventh-year basketball coach Chris Holtmann on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024 with the Buckeyes mired in yet another subpar season. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

CHICAGO (AP) — DePaul hired Chris Holtmann as its coach on Thursday, hoping he can restore a once-proud program that has struggled in recent decades.

Holtmann wasn't out of work long after being fired by Ohio State in mid-February. The former Big East and Big Ten Coach of the Year faces a huge task taking over a team that just completed one of the worst seasons in league history.

DePaul went 3-29 overall and became the first team to go 0-20 in Big East play. Former coach Tony Stubblefield was fired in January after two-plus seasons.

“During this process, I was extremely impressed with the commitment, eagerness and vision of DeWayne Peevy and President (Robert) Manuel to build a successful BIG EAST basketball program,” Holtmann said in a statement. "My wife, Lori, and our daughter, Nora, look forward to getting to Chicago and spending time in the DePaul community. We can’t wait to get to work!”

The 52-year-old Holtmann is 251-171 with seven NCAA Tournament appearances in 13 seasons at Gardner-Webb, Butler and Ohio State. He 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.

Holtmann led the Buckeyes to a 137-86 record and four NCAA appearances. But they couldn't advance past the first weekend in 2021 and 2022.

None of Holtmann’s Ohio State teams won a Big Ten regular-season title or conference tournament. He also struggled in recent years trying to navigate the transfer portal and NIL issues.

In 2022-23, Ohio State had its first losing season in nearly two decades, going 16-19 overall and 5-15 in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes were 14-11 and 4-10, having lost nine of 11, when Holtmann was fired. Ohio State had won five of six under Jake Diebler heading into Thursday's Big Ten Tournament game against Iowa.

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

Holtmann is the second men's basketball coach hired by Peevy, who said DePaul conducted “extensive national search.”

“Chris’ track record as a head coach of high-level programs, demonstrated commitment to excellence on and off the court, and NCAA postseason experience made him the perfect hire for DePaul,” Peevy said. “Chris unmistakably shares our values and our vision for DePaul men’s basketball, recognizes our commitment to the resources required to compete at a high level, and is eager to return our program to national prominence.”

DePaul has not played in the NCAA Tournament since 2004, when former coach Dave Leitao was in his first tenure leading the Blue Demons. They have finished with a losing record in Big East play in all but one season since entering the league in 2005 and wound up last in the conference for the 12th time in 16 years despite being in Chicago’s fertile recruiting ground.

The Blue Demons also have been overshadowed in the city in recent seasons by Loyola Chicago, another Catholic school on the North Side. The Ramblers made the Final Four in 2018, reached the Sweet 16 in 2021 and played in the NCAA Tournament in 2022.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball