It’s no secret that Ohio State men’s basketball coach Thad Matta has struggled with health issues in the past. After a botched surgery left him with back problems and a less than fully functioning right foot, Matta has walked with a limp on the sidelines, wears a supportive brace on his lower right leg and sits on a barstool instead of the regular bench seat at games for more back support.
He has been candid in sharing stories about his back pain. He said he has to have his family help him take off his shoes when he gets home because he can’t do it himself.
Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports reported Monday night that Matta would return to OSU for the 2017-18 season despite concern over the coach’s health.
“I’d like to know who said that. Like, who said that or where did it come from?” Matta said about the source of the information on his health.
He said Tuesday in the final media session before the Big Ten tournament in Washington that he feels “really good” and has even lost a few pounds.
Matta shows up to weekly press conferences — as he did on Tuesday — dressed in shorts, a gray sweatshirt drenched in sweat and a towel around his neck. He’s constantly in the weight room or the trainer’s room on an elliptical and seems to be in great shape, but the university remains mum on the subject of Matta’s job.
“That’s on them,” Matta said. “If they want to do it, they can do it. I’m just going to D.C. and see(ing) what the heck happens.”
OSU is currently in one of its worst seasons, record-wise, since Matta began coaching OSU 13 years ago. The Buckeyes are 17-14, 7-11 in the Big Ten, and playing on the first day of the Big Ten tournament as one of the bottom four teams in the conference.
With the team likely to miss the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year for the first time since Matta took the job, the criticism of the coach and the direction of the program is warranted, but Matta affirmed that his health isn’t any reason to step down from the job at this point.
“Somebody asked me today if I wanted to put out a statement, I said, ‘I could care less. You don’t need to do that,’” he said.
However, Matta said other coaches have used his health against him on the recruiting front in the past eight seasons.
“Somebody told a recruit I was dying,” Matta said. “Swear to God. Not that my foot doesn’t lift, but I was going to die. Tough business I’m in.”
He added that the recruit’s father then called him saying that the recruit was going to delay the announcement of his commitment because of health issues. When Matta asked the father what was wrong, he told Matta it was not the recruit’s health, it was Matta’s.
“He said, ‘Well it’s your health. You’re going to die.’ I said, ‘I’ve never missed a day of work, I’ve never missed a day of recruiting, I’ve never missed a game,” Matta said.
Matta has gone out to recruit this year more than he ever has in the past, according to team sources, taking advantage of off days and seeing as many recruits as possible in the 130 days allotted by the NCAA per year — which should be a sign that Matta’s health isn’t a variable.