Definite head scratcher following two consecutive seasons of not reaching the NCAA Tournament
On Monday afternoon, Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith mentioned in a press conference that was seen live on BTN that “recruiting” was a central issue to why popular men’s basketball coach Thad Matta was relieved of his duties after 13 years.
Normally, when a coach is let go–it happens in late March after a team typically goes 17-15 or 18-16, barely posts a .500 record while in conference play and catches fire in the postseason conference tournament losing in the final game, either at the buzzer in regulation or getting their clocks cleaned in overtime.
The timing of this announcement was very odd, but it does have a bit of backstory to tell:
When the Buckeyes turned to the one-time head coach of Xavier, Ohio State’s program was in shambles. They were on probation and ineligible for tournament play in March 2005, even though they won 20 games and had an even .500 record in the ultra competitive Big Ten Conference.
Matta’s team thrived in winning 337 games while losing only 123. According to ESPN, his .733 winning percentage over the last 17 years is greater than what was accomplished by Roy Williams (first at Kansas and later at North Carolina) and Mark Few of Gonzaga.
His marks of consistency put him among the elite of Big Ten coaches all-time, reaching a level that was not seen by Bobby Knight, Gene Keady, or even Lou Henson when they were each in their prime at Indiana, Purdue, and Illinois respectively.
A national search will be conducted for his replacement, even though Thad Matta will be part of the search as well. It definitely sounds crazy, especially when you think that any school–let alone a bonafide football power that resides in Columbus, all of the sports ranging from volleyball to lacrosse are typically billed as second fiddle.
Although men’s basketball is also a revenue driven sport along with football, the keys for most top flight schools are location, money provided by donors and key alumni. Everything else is mostly secondary.
Please don’t get me started about his back injury following the 2007 Final Four that went awry. I get that. Coaching on the sidelines in any sport demands a strong back and a tough demeanor.
His teams also won five Big Ten regular season titles (2006-07, along with 2010-12) and four Big Ten Tournament championships (2007, 2010, 2011, and 2013).
Even with a surprise run to the 2012 NCAA Final Four, I felt that the wheels came off during their then labeled Second Round (later to be termed First Round) game at the Buffalo pod in 2014 against Dayton:
As I mentioned in my first full season of blogging on March 20, 2014:
“Aaron Craft’s driving layup with over 15 seconds gave the Buckeyes a brief one point lead. But it was Vee Sanford’s driving layup with 3.8 seconds left that gave the Dayton Flyers a 60-59 lead. However Craft, steady most of the way (even committing a flagrant 1 foul late in the second half) did not flinch. All game long, he made threes and dished a lot of punishment on his own in getting baskets to go through.
However, the final shot of his college career curled around the rim and twirled out.”
Three new coaches in one of the nation’s premier conferences
Following the introductions of Brad Underwood moving from Oklahoma State to Illinois and Archie Miller departing Dayton for Indiana, it will be interesting to see who will take over for the Buckeyes.
Once the news of the hire becomes official, Yours Truly Online will chime in when the time is right to do so. Thanks again for reading and following my blog and remember, comments are always welcome.