Thad Matta Steps Down as Head Coach at Ohio State
After thirteen seasons, Thad Matta’s time as the Ohio State Men’s basketball coach came to an end Monday afternoon as Athletic Director Gene Smith and Thad Matta announced Matta’s retirement in a press conference.
Despite declining production over the last two years, four depending on which Ohio State fan you ask, Thad Matta restored the Ohio State basketball program to levels of national prominence fans have not seen since the Fred Taylor era.
“Obviously, this has been probably the greatest 13 years of my life,” Matta said, visibly holding back tears. “Looking around here, seeing all these fans and what all the guys have been able to accomplish. Thinking of my wife, my two daughters. They’ve been with me at the top and at the bottom.”
Arguably, the defining moment of Matta’s legacy was March 6th, 2005, the bookend of his first season as head coach at Ohio State. With undefeated and NCAA top-ranked Illinois visiting Columbus to close out the Big Ten regular season, Matta’s team was ineligible for postseason play and playing just for pride. With several of the nation’s top recruits in the building, the Buckeyes shocked Illinois 65-64 on a last second buzzer beater from Matt Sylvester.
Months later the ‘Thad Five’ was formed, with Deaquan Cook, Mike Conley, Greg Oden, David Lighty, and Othello Hunter all signing their national letters of intent to play at Ohio State beginning with the 2006-2007 season.
During his tenure, Matta led the Buckeyes to five Big Ten regular season conference championships, four Big Ten tournament championships, two Final Four appearances (NCAA runner up in 2007), and the 2008 NIT championship.
Matta also leaves Ohio State as the winningest coach in program history, with 337 career wins. Matta also boasts the best winning percentage (.733) of any Ohio State coach with more than two years on the job. Matta was also named Big Ten Coach of the Year three times during his tenure in Columbus.
Matta’s recruits over the years were stellar as well, with Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr, Daequan Cook, Kosta Koufos, B.J. Mullens, Evan Turner, Jon Diebler, Jared Sullinger, Deshaun Thomas, and D’Angelo Russell all being selected in the NBA Draft.
One piece of Matta’s legacy that not many will talk about is the number of NCAA issues the team has had, or lack thereof. Under Matta’s guidance, the Ohio State basketball program emerged from NCAA sanctions caused by the previous coach and the depths of both Big Ten and national obscurity to become a national powerhouse once again and not have a single NCAA violation along the way. An impressive stat line in the age of cut throat recruiting tactics.
Due to the unforeseen timing of Matta’s departure, the list of names being considered as his replacement is short. Despite his exit, Matta will stay on board with the Buckeye athletic team to help find his replacement.
Chris Mack (Xavier), Mick Cronin (Cincinnati), Sean Miller (Arizona), Gregg Marshall (Wichita State), Billy Donovan (Oklahoma City, NBA), and Tom Crean (unemployed) have all been mentioned as potential candidates to replace Matta.
Whoever the next Ohio State coach is, they have huge shoes to fill, both on and off the court. Matta wasn’t just a great coach, he was/is an excellent mentor to countless men.