After 13 seasons, Ohio State University and men's basketball coach Thad Matta say they have mutually agreed to part ways.
Mike Foley reports.
Sitting next to Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith, Thad Matta became emotional reflecting on his time as men’s basketball coach in Columbus.
“This has been probably the greatest 13 years of my life. Looking around here and seeing all these things the guys have been able to accomplish has been awesome. Thinking about my wife and my two daughters, they’ve been with me at the top and at the bottom.”
Matta led nine Buckeye basketball teams to NCAA Tournament appearances, and two of those squads made it to the Final Four. Missing the tournament the last two seasons with a 38-and-29 record and recruiting questions fueled speculation about Matta’s future at Ohio State. But back in March, AD Gene Smith issued a statement that both supported Matta and challenged him to return the program to its winning ways. According to Smith, a standard evaluation meeting a few days ago evolved into something deeper.
“I just got this feeling as I listened to him that it was time. There was not anything leading up to it. It happened in the moment. I could see and sense that maybe it was time. So that’s when I broached it to him. We had a conversation about it being time, and then we started to talk about process.”
“After the discussion, we both agreed that it probably needed to be done. His job is to run this basketball program, and I respect that.”
While the negative recruiting regarding Matta’s future that recently materialized bothered him, the physical toll of the profession factored in more. Matta has been dealing with back and foot problems for several years and when asked if he would still be Ohio State’s coach if fully healthy, he delivered a resounding yes.
“I don’t think anybody can truly comprehend what this job does to you. I went through a year where I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t take my shoes off after a game. I couldn’t take my pants off after a game. I had to curl up in a ball, and that’s why I was always late to the media stuff. The stuff I’ve had to go through just to be serviceable, but I always fought. That’s what I felt I had to do for the players.”
Regarding his legacy, Matta hopes to be remembered as a good person who cared for his players and always ran the program the right way. Asked about his overriding feeling as he leaves Ohio State, Matta responded this way.
“I’ve done nothing but thought of the good times, and that’s all I will think about. I made enough great memories here to last me.”
Matta exits Ohio State’s basketball program as the all-time leader in wins at 337, and games coached with 460. Smith says Matta will assist in the search for the next coach, and the school will honor the remaining three years of his contract. Matta’s assistants will run the offseason program.