Fickell, Matta Headline Morning Sports Report
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — There was a distinct hockey theme to the 2011 Morning Sports Report Wednesday with Columbus Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash taking center stage.
He was joined by former NHL stars Dino Ciccarelli and Ed Olczyk, but that did not keep attention away from the usual headline grabber in Columbus, Ohio. The event, which is hosted annually by the Greater Columbus Sports Commission also featured newly appointed Ohio State football head coach Luke Fickell, as well as a guest appearance from basketball coach Thad Matta.
Speaking to a congregation of business men and women in downtown Columbus Wednesday morning, Matta did not talk about the hiring of assistant coach Chris Jent. He did, however, reflect on his team that went to the Sweet 16 for the second year in a row.
“This may be the funnest group of guys I’ve ever been around,” Matta said of the 2010-11 Buckeyes.
“First and foremost they are great kids. They were great guys to be around and you didn’t have to motivate them. They were very, very driven and you saw the success of it.”
Matta also expressed disappointment over the fact senior David Lighty, a player he has called one of his favorites of all time, was not selected in last week’s NBA Draft.
“You want to hear his name called because you know he wants to hear his name called,” he said of Lighty, who recently worked out for the Atlanta Hawks.
“On the flip side, the best thing that happened to David was not being drafted because he can sort of pick where he wants to go. And I have no doubt that David Lighty is going to play in the NBA.”
Attention quickly shifted to Fickell, who was making his first appearance at the event after taking over for Jim Tressel back in May.
“This is normally a time for us as coaches to be off and have a little vacation after our camps, but the most important thing for me right now is to be around those kids,” said Fickell, who was named as the replacement for Tressel when he resigned on Memorial Day.
“We all have to sacrifice and obviously we’re willing to do that.”
The former nose guard and assistant coach for the Buckeyes would have loved to go straight from the morning event to the practice field, but he will have to wait until August before he can officially start working with his team as the man in charge.
“The most difficult situation for our kids is you’re not allowed to have a lot to do with them during the summer so we haven’t had nearly as much time with them as people think,” Fickell said.
“We’re relying a lot on our senior leadership. We’re not allowed to do football stuff, so we do things outside the facility just to make sure we’re all on the same page.”
There has been plenty of talk since Fickell took over the program about what direction he would take things now that Tressel is gone, and for how long. As a man who once played 50 straight games on the defensive line for Ohio State, Fickell has always been more about actions than words.
“It’s not about as much of the talk. Everyone’s going to have their own opinion, but we want to stress to our kids that it’s going to be about our actions,” he said.
“I’m not looking to make an imprint or something specifically known that I did. We’re going to be judged on our actions and that’s (why) September 3 is posted in our locker room. Our kids understand what we’re about.”
Fickell’s face also appeared in a spoof music video as Monkees drummer Micky Dolenz, with Jackets General Manager Scott Howson, Clippers GM Ken Schnacke and Crew GM Mark McCullers playing the other members of the band.
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