Matta Defends Tressel’s Love for Ohio State
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State basketball coach Thad Matta was much happier sitting in his seat Wednesday than the one occupied by the school’s football coach one night earlier.
While Matta and his team are preparing to defend their Big Ten Tournament title this weekend in Indianapolis, Jim Tressel was busy dodging arrows from the media after Ohio State called a press conference to announce they had self-reported violations to the NCAA.
It was the talk of the town in Columbus, and really around the nation Tuesday night and into Wednesday. Despite his close friendship with Tressel—not to mention proximity—Matta remained one of the few who had not seen the fallout from Wednesday’s press conference when he took the podium Wednesday afternoon.
“I don’t know what went on,” he said during his press conference at Value City Arena.
“I didn’t have time last night to watch anything or read anything today. A couple of people have tried to talk to me about it and I said ‘not now.’”
Matta obviously has more important things to worry about this time of year, especially with his team being ranked No. 1 in the country heading into post-season play. The Buckeyes will take the court Friday at Conseco Fieldhouse—home of the Indianapolis Colts—against the winner of No. 8 Northwestern vs. No. 9 Minnesota (2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2), but that doesn’t mean Matta isn’t interested in how things play out for Tressel and Ohio State.
“I know this, in the seven years I’ve been here I would consider coach Tressel to probably be the biggest factor of outside influences for our program’s success,” Matta said.
That’s a big statement from Matta, who has guided the Buckeyes to four Big Ten championships and what will now be a fifth trip to the NCAA tournament in his seven years in Columbus. During that time, Tressel has delivered a number of pre-game speeches to Matta’s teams. He has also helped to put butts in the seats at the Schottenstein Center with ceremonies honoring the football team, and there is no understating the value of a football gameday at Ohio Stadium in the fall when it comes to helping Matta recruit.
It might not sound like there’s an obvious correlation between football games and basketball recruiting, but Matta and his coaching staff can routinely be seen at the Horseshoe with recruits during the season.
Most importantly, Matta credits Tressel with showing him what it really means to be the head coach of a major varsity sport at Ohio State.
“He’s taught me a lot of things but the one thing that I know and have learned from him is to coach here, how much passion you have to have for the university,” said Matta, who came to the Buckeyes from down the road at Xavier University.
When Matta got to Ohio State in 2004, Tressel was only two years removed from leading the Buckeyes to their first National Championship since 1968. Unlike Tressel, Matta was not born and bred in Ohio. He coached at Xavier for three years, but before that spent five years at Butler, his alma Mater.
It didn’t take him long, however, to realize there was something different about coaching at what he now calls “the best university in the country.”
Much of that he learned from watching Tressel.
“I’ve never met a man that this place means more to,” Matta said of Tressel.
“That’s something I’ve always tried to learn and emulate because of that.”
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