Titus' Book Reveals Lighter Side of Matta

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Last updated: 03/12/2012 11:53 AM

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Men's Basketball
Titus’ Book Reveals Lighter Side of Thad Matta
By Brandon Castel

Mark Titus has always been known as a bit of a wisecracker, and that was no different during his time as a walk-on at Ohio State.

I almost hesitate to call him that, because Titus was really more of a jester on some of Thad Matta’s most talented Buckeye teams. A jester who was really good at shooting threes.

Because he spent more of his time on the bench than in the game—which explains why his new book is titled Don’t Put Me In, Coach—the jokester part of his persona became much more of his identity than the shooting.

For that very reason, one can only imagine what Coach Matta must have thought when he heard Titus was going to write a hilarious “tell-all” story about his “incredible NCAA journey from the end of the bench to the end of the bench.”

So far there are two really important things that jump out at me from reading the book, which Mark’s publishers at Doubleday were kind enough to send a copy in my direction. Surprisingly, neither of them has to do with why Ivan Harris made for a unbearable roommate in the team hotel. (If you want to know about that, pick up a copy of the book.)

The first thing that jumped out at me was the fact Titus presents a side of Matta we rarely get to see, both as fans and as members of the media. Don’t get me wrong, he has his humorous moments during almost every media session (many of which take place once he is far enough away from our recorders).

I understand exactly what Titus is referring to when he opens the book talking about his first meeting with Matta, where Ohio State’s head coach was cracking himself up with his own jokes.

It’s no secret to those of us in the media who have covered Thad long enough that he likes to laugh at his own comedic timing, especially when it is subtle or dry enough that we aren’t quite sure whether he is completely joking or not.

What we don’t get to see from Matta as outside observers is how he fits and meshes with many of the players on his team, even the practical jokesters like Titus. Reading the book, it is easy to imagine Matta as a young prankster of his own growing up back in Hoopeston, Ill., or even as a young basketball player at Southern Illinois University (where he spent two seasons before transferring to Butler University).

In the book, Titus reveals Matta’s more, shall we say crude sense of humor, which seemed to put some of his more highly-rated teams at ease in moments where tension and anxiety would normally be commonplace.

For instance, who would have known Matta was a big fan of the movie Wedding Crashers, or that he would call his team in for an impromptu movie viewing before film session on the eve of a big game?

He didn’t stop there, but I won’t give away all of Mark’s secrets. Ultimately, you will probably view Thad Matta a little differently after reading this book, unless you already happen to be one those guys who goes over for beers and brats at the Matta’s during the off-season (in which case, what are you doing reading this? Just call Thad and get the scoop, although don’t ask him to explain what a Club Trillion blog is).

It is easy to see how Matta’s sense of humor would make him an instant favorite with recruits, and why his teams generally seem to have a very loose environment within the locker room (at least last year’s team did).

That brings me to the second thing which jumped out at me reading the book. (Admittedly, I am only halfway through so far, but it seemed like as great a place as any to write my first review considering the Buckeyes just finished their 2006-07 run to the NCAA championship game.)

If not for Matta’s sense of humor, there probably never would have been a Mark Titus’ book, or a Mark Titus’ blog, or even a Mark Titus, as far as most of us knew. His Amazon book description calls him the “nation’s most famous benchwarmer,” but there are not many coaches in the country who would have put up with the shenanigans Titus pulled during his time at Ohio State.

It is easy to see why Titus clashed with his high school coach, and it is obvious his antics would not have been appreciated, or tolerated, at most other major college basketball programs around the country.

That’s not to say his pranks were mean-spirited (at least not most of them), but not many coaches would have allowed a walk-on to torment his star players the way Matta did with guys like Greg Oden and Evan Turner. Though it was all in good fun, there were occasions where Titus clearly stepped over the line of what most “benchwarmers” would be allowed to get away with.

But that’s Mark Titus. He’s brash, he’s outspoken, he’s a bit vulgar, and he isn’t going to apologize for having fun. He was the typical college kid, the kind of guy you would run into at the bar, except he has a pair of Big Ten championship rings and an appearance in the NCAA championship game.

That’s probably why they let him write a book.

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