Thad Matta steps down as head coach 

An era has come to an end in Columbus.

Ohio State men’s basketball coach Thad Matta stepped down from his position effective immediately on Monday. An earlier report had stated Matta would coach one more season with the Buckeyes but that was retracted with the official news.

Jeff Goodman of ESPN had some tidbits on the surprising news

I believe Matta wants to keep coaching as he’s only 49 years old but his health has been of question over the last couple years.

An unsuccessful surgery left him with back problems and a right foot that doesn’t work 100 percent. Rumors got so bad at one point that a recruit was told Matta was dying which delayed said recruit’s announcement.

Matta came to Ohio State in 2004 after successful stints with Butler and Xavier. He brought a fresh start and new hope for the program following the Jim O’Brien situation.

In 13 seasons with the Buckeyes, he posted twelve 20 win seasons and three 30 win seasons. He is the winningest coach in school history with a record of 337-123 (.733).

He led them to five Big Ten championships, an NIT championship (2007-08) and nine trips to the NCAA tournament. Five of those trips went to at least the Sweet Sixteen and two of those went to the Final Four (2006-07 and 2011-12).

His best season as head coach came in the 2006-07 season with his recruiting class dubbed the “Thad Five” which featured Greg Oden, Mike Conley, Daequan Cook, David Lighty and Othello Hunter.

That team went 35-4 and got all the way to the National Championship game when they ultimately lost to Florida 84-75. Oden, Conley and Cook went on to be first round picks in the NBA and Lighty played all four years of college.

Matta had some great years recruiting talent to Columbus like Evan Turner, Jon Diebler, Aaron Craft and D’Angelo Russell but over the last couple seasons, you could see that his recruiting had been off and I think it was in large part to the NBA’s “One and Done rule”.

Despite Matta’s track record with recruiting and developing NBA talent, high school players choose to go to the powerhouses like Kentucky, Kansas, Duke and North Carolina instead of Ohio State. 

Matta let in-state talent like Luke Kennard and Carlton Bragg slip away and go out of state to play school.

Matta also produced a lot of now head coaches in college and the NBA through his staff. 

  • John Groce was his associate head coach before being the head coach at Ohio, Illinois and now in Akron. 
  • Alan Major was an assistant for Matta at Xavier and Ohio State before spending five years as head coach at Charlotte
  • Sean and Archie Miller both were assistants for Matta. Sean replaced Matta at Xavier before taking the job in Arizona. Archie was the head coach at Dayton before being named the head coach of Indiana earlier this year.
  • Brad Stevens was a graduate assistant before coaching at Butler and now the Boston Celtics
  • Brandon Miller worked under Matta before replacing Stevens at Butler
  • Jeff Boals was a long time assistant for Matta before becoming head coach at Stony Brook

Matta was and still is a good coach and got the best out of what he had but a change was necessary.

It’s unknown who are the top candidates are for the job. If Ohio State wanted Thad to step down, my thinking is why didn’t they do it in March when Archie Miller was available before he ultimately took the job in Indiana. 

Clay Hall, a sports director for the ABC and Fox stations in Columbus tweeted his out an hour ago

I’m not sure Stevens or Donovan will leave their coaching positions in the NBA but I could be wrong. I’m also not sure Miller would leave Arizona just yet either. Wright and Bennett have great sports in Villanova and Virginia respectively. Of course money talks though.

One coach that’s out on the market that should interest the Buckeyes is former Marquette and Indiana head coach Tom Crean. He was successful at both stops and has produced some NBA talents like Dwayne Wade and Victor Oladipo which would intrigue high school players I would think. 

It’ll be interesting to see which way the Buckeye basketball program moves going forward. 


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