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Men’s basketball: Thad Matta mum on job security, focused on the present

Ohio State men’s basketball coach Thad Matta looks down the sideline during the Buckeyes’s game against Rutgers on Feb. 8. OSU won, 70-64. Credit: Mason Swires | Assistant Photo Editor

Ohio State men’s basketball coach Thad Matta is the winningest coach in OSU history, but with a downward-trending record in recent years, his job security has been brought into question.

The Buckeyes currently sit with a record of 15-13, and 5-10 in the Big Ten, ahead of only Rutgers in conference. OSU has three games left on the schedule this season and is facing the very real possibility of finishing with an under .500 record for the first time under Matta.

With more than 15 years of head-coaching experience, Matta is not dodging any questions, and is not deflecting the blame to outside factors, or the play of anyone on his team.

“I’ll never ever throw a player under the bus,” Matta said. “I’ve never done that. I’ll take it, ice in my veins. It’s on me 100 percent.”

Still, Matta is arguably in the biggest slump of his coaching career. That, paired with a winning percentage that has been slowly declining since the 2010-11 season, and it’s easy to see where the frustrations of fans come from.

Like any other coach, Matta is trying to look on the bright side of this season. He is well aware of where the criticism is coming from, and isn’t trying to blame anything on the bad strokes of luck. Still, he said he hopes to keep the focus on the team and winning games, and not about internal struggles and if the team is going in the right direction.

“I know where you guys are going with this, and it’s difficult. We just lost a five-point lead with 30 seconds to go in our last game,” he said. “I’m not going to say that everything is great. I’m still reeling from that loss. I think we can address these questions at another time. I’ve got to gotta coach a basketball team.”

It’s worth noting OSU has had its fair share of bad luck this season. From the loss of junior forward Keita Bates-Diop for the entire season, to instances of bad bounces and unfortunate calls, the Buckeyes have seen it all.

Against Michigan State, on a crucial possession for OSU, senior forward Marc Loving had a chance to take a wide-open shot, but was essentially screened by the referee. It’s been that kind of year for the Buckeyes.

However, it appears Matta still has the backing of his players.

“Every program is going to have its struggles,” said freshman center Micah Potter. “It depends on how you come out of them. That really shows you the state of the program. Coach Matta is a great coach. I think everyone here can understand that. I think everyone in the country understands that. He knows how to coach his players, and it’s up to the players to buy in.”

With Wisconsin ahead, Matta understands he is under pressure and scrutiny from now until the start of next season, barring any surprise choices by the OSU Department of Athletics to relieve him of his duties. For now, it’s still about winning, and still about helping lead the team he has been with for 13 years, and cleaning up the mistakes that have been present all year.

The toll of a rough season can wear thin on a coach at any level, but Matta said his years at the helm of teams have helped him through.

“I think this profession … you do this long enough and you kind of become numb,” he said. “I’ve always said this. I never get too high and I never get too low. Am I a little bit lower than normally? Yeah, I probably am.”

OSU and Matta get a chance to earn a huge upset against No. 16 Wisconsin on Thursday at 9 p.m. in Columbus.

One comment

  1. Thad we love you. I flew into Columbus in 2008 with my Son from Hong Kong where we lived at the time and we saw you standing there – he was about 15 and too shy to say “Hi” to his Buckeye hero! Wish you could keep a team rather than be reduced to a NBA farm squad, but that’s the landscape these days.

    If Ohio anywhere needs to dump a coach, get Marvin Lewis with the Bugles, he has hit the ceiling.

    Go Bucks!

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