COLUMBUS — Ohio State men’s basketball coach Thad Matta and OSU director of athletics Gene Smith met with the media on Monday afternoon to address the future of the OSU men’s basketball program.
+ Gene Smith announced that after meeting with Thad Matta after the season he came to the decision that the program needed to make a change. They are now in the process of replacing Thad Matta immediately.
+ The search will begin immediately and be “national.”
+ Thad Matta recited “What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been.” His voice wavering, he said this has been probably the best 13 years of his life.
+ Matta is unsuccessfully holding back tears. “I have had an incredible time.” He wanted to thank everybody by name, from the Schottenstein Center staff to the doctors to his coaches and players.
+ Matta thanked his doctors for always being there for him, even when he would stop by late at night because he couldn’t move.
+ Most importantly Matta wanted to thank the players. Those were the guys that did the job, “and I’m grateful to them.”
+ Asked about his legacy, Matta said he hopes he is remembered as a really good person and a guy who cared about the university and his players. The wins and losses come, but he also wants to be remembered for always doing it the right way.
+ Matta doesn’t know if he’ll get back into coaching. He joked that if he does, it will be track because he can just show his watch to unhappy parents.
+ His focus right now is only on getting healthy. Never say never on coaching again.
+ “I went through a year where I couldn’t walk.” He couldn’t take his shoes or pants off after a game. “Maybe to a fault, I always fought.”
+ Gene Smith said the flow of the conversation with Matta took him to the reality that change was needed, and Matta agreed. Momentum was not going well in recruiting either. “That’s why we did it at this time.”
+ The conversation after the season is what changed things according to Smith.
+ “We were battling some things that we couldn’t overcome.” — Matta
+ “I’m perfectly fine with it.” — Matta
+ The “touch base” meeting happened last Friday and was primarily about recruiting. That was the conversation that made Smith realize it was time. There was nothing leading up to it. “It happened in the moment.”
+ Thad Matta will help Ohio State in the search and the transition.
+ “He’s my boss, but he’s also a great friend. For me personally, I could never be more grateful for that.”
+ “I want this basketball program to win a national championship.” — Matta
+ “This place is home to my family.” — Matta
+ What will he miss most? “There’s so many things. Today does not define who I am.” Matta tears up again talking about what he will miss. “Press conferences, I don’t know what I’ll do without those,” he joked.
+ While talking about his players, he has a wide smile. When he arrived at Ohio State, the graduation rate was just 20%.
+ Gene Smith does not have a time line. No time is optimal. They’ll have a national search to find the right guy for The Ohio State University.
+ Matta will stay on until there is a new head coach.
+ Smith wants him and Matta to be aligned in their conversations regarding candidates because when Smith calls a candidate, that candidate is immediately going to call Matta.
+ Matta on recruiting: “It can beat a guy up.” “You have no idea some of the challenges that go on there.”
+ Smith does not anticipate having to go with an interim coach next season. The assistant coaches are still on staff, so they will still be doing their jobs.
+ Matta was asked if he was 100% healthy would he still be the head coach: “Yeah. Probably.” There has had to be a lot of adjustments. He doesn’t want to blame it for the decline of the program because the program was doing very well when it was bad early on.
+ Matta has had four major back surgeries, dating back to when he was 15 years old. Smith every year was asking if there was anything he could do to make the job better or easier for Matta. “He backed me 100% through the deal.”
+ “Recruiting is so much more challenging these days. I think I would speak for all 350 college basketball coaches that there is no question that the landscape has drastically changed just in terms of all of the things.”
+ Regarding the search, Matta joked that if the new coach does great, people need to remember that he was involved. If the new coach does not do well, then he had nothing to do with it.
+ Matta said as a coach you always prepare yourself for the conversation that he had last Friday.
+ Gene Smith said Ohio recruiting is a major focus and will be a major focus for the next head coach.
+ Recruiting was challenging because of the situation this season and after the season. “It made it very, very difficult.”
+ Matta’s contract will be honored. He has three more years remaining.
+ The feeling for Matta…”I’m starting to get some feeling back because this job makes you numb. When you coach in the Big Ten you kind of become numb.” Since this has happened, “I’ve done nothing but thought of the good times.”
+ “I’ve made enough great memories here to last me.”