Raise Keeps Matta Among College Basketball’s Elite
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Thad Matta wants to be at Ohio State for the long haul. The Buckeyes, undoubtedly, would like to keep even a little longer.
Photo by Jim Davidson
While Matta has not yet brought the school’s first basketball national title since the days of John Havlicek and Jerry Lucas, he has returned OSU basketball to a place of national prominence, a place the University had not seen, perhaps, since the retirement of Fred Taylor, who coached the Buckeyes to that championship back in 1960.
“I came here in 2005 and had the good fortune to inherit Thad as the coach,” OSU Athletic Director Gene Smith said on Monday.
“It all ties to his vision and how it aligned with my thought that The Ohio State University should have a basketball program that is consistently chasing championships.”
For that, they need a championship caliber coach. Or at least one who is paid like one. Along with singing Matta’s praises on Monday, Smith also announced the terms of a new contract that would make Ohio State’s basketball coach one of the highest paid in the sport.
“I have always tried to keep coaches like Thad in the top-10, but that keeps moving so I am committed to having a coach that is paid consistently with his peers and our expectations,” Smith said.
“This has been my behavior with all coaches ever since I have been in this business, to keep them compensated with their peers consistent with what I see out of their performance.”
The new provisions to Matta’s contract, which won’t become official until they are approved by the Ohio State Board of Trustees next week, won’t add any additional years to his contract. That was extended out to 2019 when Matta won a share of last year’s Big Ten championship.
What it will do, if approved, is bump Matta’s salary from $2.9 million to $3.2 million per year, making him the second-highest paid coach in the Big Ten and the seventh-highest paid coach in all of college basketball.
“I think we all know that Thad has done a marvelous job since he has been our coach here and with our basketball program,” Smith said added.
“When you think about the academic accomplishments of the young men in our program, the APR going from 911 to 972, 17 of our 22 players who have exhausted their eligibility have graduated and gone on with their lives. He has just created a great culture for the program academically.”
Among his conference peers, only Michigan State’s Tom Izzo ($3.6 million) currently earns a higher salary than Matta’s new deal, which comes on the heels of three-straight Big Ten titles and a second trip to the Final Four in his eight years at Ohio State.
“One of the things I am most proud of is what we’ve built here from where we started,” Matta said Monday after the new provisions were announced.
“We were at Ground Zero nine years ago in terms of the uncertainty of our program. We’ve been fortunate with the teams we’ve had and the job the coaches have done to build this program.”
Matta’s teams have won 20 or more games in all eight of his previous seasons at OSU – a school record – and they have 13 wins this season with 13 more games to play during the regular season.
He has reached 30 wins three times (2007, 2011 and 2012) with the Buckeyes, who have won five Big Ten titles, three conference tournament championships, six NCAA Tournament appearances, three straight Sweet 16 bids, two Final Fours, one NCAA title game appearance and the 2008 NIT title since he took over the program in 2004.
Under Matta, OSU has a .772 winning percentage – the best among all OSU coaches with three or more years on the job – and the school has produced seven players drafted in the first round of the NBA draft (Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr., Daequan Cook, Kosta Koufos, B.J. Mullens, Evan Turner and Jared Sullinger) since 2006.
“You look at what we’ve been able to accomplish, for me personally, I am a lot more proud of that than I am of a contract,” said Matta, who will be 46 years old in July.
“Fortunately, it kind of comes with the territory now a days in terms of what universities are doing and what coaches are getting.”
According to USA Today, Matta is the highest paid coach in college basketball without a national championship on his resume. Kentucky’s John Calipari, who captured his first title last season, is the highest-paid coach in the country at nearly $5.4 million a year.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino received a retention bonus that pushed his salary over $7 million last year, but his typical annual salary of $4.8 million makes him the country’s second-highest paid coach behind Calipari.
Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, Division I college basketball’s all-time winningest coach, is third at $4.7 million per year, followed by Florida’s Billy Donovan ($3.6 million) and Kansas coach Bill Self ($3.6 million).
Izzo is next at just under $3.6 million per year, followed by Matta now at $3.2 million, assuming the board approves his new contract, which they are expected to do. The next highest paid coaches in the Big Ten are Purdue’s Matt Painter ($2.3 million) and Indiana’s Tom Crean ($2.2 million), who is probably due for a raise after bring the Hoosiers back from obscurity.
Michigan’s John Beilein also makes around $2.2 million per year and Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan comes in at sixth in the Big Ten with a salary of just under $2.2 million annually.
Along with the raise, Matta’s new contract also allows for academic bonuses and a car stipend, which will replace Ohio State’s now extinct car program. He will also get as many as 20 addition hours of flight time on the University’s private jet for recruiting purposes, but there is also language in the new contract designed to hold him more accountable for compliance issues concerning his players.
“First and foremost, all of the things that are in there are things that I live by in terms of my responsibility to this university,” Matta said emphatically.
“I don’t know how much drastic change there is to that. That’s how I want to operate.”
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