Butler Basketball’s head coach Chris Holtmann was named the winner of the CollegeInsider.com’s John McLendon Coach of the Year award and Holtmann deserved it. Coming into this season Butler was not ranked at all and was predicted to finish sixth in the Big East. Yet thanks to Holtmann the Bulldogs were able to make it to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2011 and ended the season with a record of 25-9. Holtmann has also won the Coach of the Year award for the Big East. While Holtmann has been a solid coach for the Bulldogs since he became the head coach in 2014 the Bulldogs success this season has shown the country how good he really is.
Holtmann was able to lead the Bulldogs to two victories over the then defending champions Villanova Wildcats. Butler was able to finish the season with six wins against teams in the top 25 and Butler was at one point ranked #11 in the country. What makes this season’s success stand out, even more, is that Butler doesn’t have a player that is a sure in for the upcoming NBA draft. But Holtmann was able to overcome the team’s lack of a true star and got the best out of all his players. Even though Butler had the 10th toughest schedule in all of college basketball the team had their best season under Holtmann.
The Bulldogs were not a flashy team but they won because of tough defense and strong fundamentals. Butler was in ninth in the nation for the least amount of turnovers this season as the team averaged only 10.2 turnovers a game that just shows how fundamentally strong the team was. The fact that team did not have to rely on one or two players allowed Holtmann to mix up his lineup during the season to great success. He was able to make adjustments while the team was struggling in late January and had just lost two games in a row. His adjustments got them back on track for the rest of the season.
Adding Kethan Savage and Avery Woodson to the starting lineup brought new life to the team especially on the offensive end where they had been struggling for a while. The lineup change near the end of the season was risky but it paid off as Butler went 5-2 in their last seven regular season games that included a four-game winning streak that saw the Bulldogs win tough road games against Villanova and Xavier.
During Holtmann’s three years at Butler, the Bulldogs have made the NCAA tournament each year and are 3-0 in first round games in the tournament. Holtmann has quietly made Butler a potential powerhouse in the Big East as the team has won over 20 games in all three seasons under him and have finished in second place twice in the regular season Big East standings. With Holtmann as the coach, the future looks bright for the Butler Bulldogs.