In a surprising twist to the college basketball off season, Thad Matta has been relieved of his duties as the Ohio State head coach. Matta was the coach of the Buckeyes for 13 seasons and finished with 337 wins. Matta struggled in the past few seasons as many young players transferred and the players that stayed did not live up to expectations. Matta dealt with many health issues the past few seasons which may have played into the recruiting struggles and other issues. The Buckeye struggles are multi layered as the combinations of health issues, recruiting struggles, early NBA Draft entries, and transfers all slowly built up at the end of Matta’s tenure.
Matta said on Monday that he was not sure if he would coach again but in the case that Columbus is his last stop we wish him the best in future endeavors and we at College Pride Press are grateful for all that he has done for college basketball. Thad is beloved by current and former players. Personally, I will always remember the Mike Conley and Greg Oden days as well as Evan Turner and his time in Columbus.
The firing of Matta is extremely shocking due to the timing. Many coaching changes are done within a week or so of the Final Four. It is now June and much of the 2018 recruiting legwork has been completed. The transfer market has dried up and Ohio State’s best player Ja’Quan Lyle has seemingly quit basketball.
If Ohio State had made this move back in March or April, they would have had much more momentum towards getting a top notch replacement. Ohio State is a Top 25 job in college basketball with their facilities, funding, and conference. The one downside of the basketball program is that it will always play second fiddle to the football program. That will turnoff some of the top tier coaches.
This search will be very interesting as getting a top notch coach will not be easy. The typical names being thrown around right now are Tony Bennett, Chris Holtman, and Chris Mack but all three of those coaches would have to abandon their 2017 recruiting classes that all enroll within the next few days and come to a disaster of a roster in Columbus. Another factor is that NBA decisions have been made based on the team and program they are returning to. Trevon Blueitt would not be a happy man if he turned down the NBA to see Chris Mack depart for Ohio State.
The biggest winners of this delayed firing are Indiana and Tom Crean. Indiana would not have lured in Archie Miller if he knew that the Buckeye job would be opening. Archie was an assistant at Ohio State for a number of years before going to have tons of success just down the road at Dayton. Archie would have been the man for the job and that would’ve a match made in heaven. Indiana now has Archie and Ohio State has very few options. Tom Crean is the other big winner of this delayed firing because he is a high profile coach that is unemployed. Things did not work out for Crean at Indiana and he decided to spend a year doing TV before surveying the available coaching jobs next March but Ohio State could come calling. Crean would do best at a program that does not have the spotlight on 24/7 like Indiana. Crean is very familiar with the Big Ten and recruiting the Mid-West. He also has been recruiting for 2018 and even made an appearance at the EYBL in Las Angeles a few weeks ago.
Ohio State has two options for this coaching vacancy. They could either hire Crean and hope that his Big Ten experience and less of a spotlight will help him, or they could retain the assistant coaches on an interim basis and wait until after next season to find a long term replacement. The Ohio State brass must make a decision quickly as the freshman are enrolling and returning players are in limbo as time ticks closer to the season.