The breaking news out of the University of Ohio State’s campus was thunderous. Thad Matta, the basketball coach with the greatest winning percentage in Big Ten history has suddenly been relieved of his head coaching duties. Throughout the day rumors swirled about whether the “firing” was due to medical reasons, to spend more time with his family, due to recruiting shortcomings, or for differences in a long-term vision for the basketball program.
Really the decision came down to the last two reasons listed above. It’s no secret that Matta was having trouble landing top-level recruits over the past few seasons and many of the biggest names in the NCAA chose to go elsewhere. But is the lack of recruiting the best names in college basketball truly at the fault of a head coach who is coming off a botched back surgery?
Instead the firing was likely due to the differences the athletic director, Gene Smith, suddenly found at his doorstep when talking with Matta about the vision of the Big Ten powerhouse. However, the timing of firing a well-known highly successful head coach in June seems fishy to many around college basketball. A quick look at Matta’s career shows that he definitely had the skills to succeed long-term in the Big Ten with several career highlights: 439-154 career winning record, best winning percentage in Big Ten history, five Big Ten regular season titles, and two Final Four appearances.
So where do the Buckeyes turn from here? The options are not the most desirable at the moment given the timing of Matta’s dismissal. Some of the names that have been tossed around recently are: Baylor’s coach Scott Drew, Arizona’s coach Sean Miller, and Billy Donovan (sorry, but that isn’t going to happen).
Likely, Drew will get the job with incredibly big shoes to fill. Let’s not to speculate on why Matta was dismissed, but rather recognize and reflect on one of the greatest modern basketball coaches of our time, and a future hall of famer. Best wishes Thad, and thanks for the memories.