It’s too soon to say Matta should leave

By Jim Naveau - [email protected]

If you are an Ohio State men’s basketball fan and think it’s time for coach Thad Matta to go away, here’s some advice.

Be careful what you wish for. Whoever would come after Matta might not be a grand-slam home run. He could be a ground rule double or even a pop-up.

The evidence that Matta has lost the ability to coach, recruit, inspire his players and motivate fans to show up at the Schottenstein Center seems to be a little thin.

Though it is probably a long shot this season, every team he has coached so far at Ohio State, just like all of his teams at Xavier and Butler, have won at least 20 games.

From 2006-2015, Ohio State made the NCAA tournament 9 of 10 seasons. OSU played in the tournament 9 times in the 21 seasons before Matta arrived.

Ohio State was national runner-up to Florida in 2007 and reached the Final Four in 2012. In 2011, the Buckeyes were the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA before being upset by Kentucky in the East Regional.

There have been mistakes, most notably in recruiting. The 2015 recruiting class was a disaster, with four of the five players in a highly rated group transferring after one year in the program. Most of OSU’s recent recruiting classes have been disappointing at worst and underachieving at best.

One of the biggest criticisms of Matta’s recruiting is that he went too national and de-emphasized recruiting Ohio and the surrounding states. If there was a conscious decision to do that, it probably was a miscalculation.

Even with its success from 2007-2012 when it attracted several NBA-caliber players, Ohio State did not seem to have the national prominence with recruits of a Kentucky, a Duke or a North Carolina.

A 10-7 overall record and a 0-4 start in the Big Ten going into today’s game against Michigan State has brought out the critics and kept the fans at home. Attendance has been awful at home games this season.

But is Ohio State really to the point where it should part ways with its most successful men’s basketball coach since the early 1960s?

Twenty-eight years ago, there was much discontent around the basketball program at the University of Dayton, similar to what you’re seeing at Ohio State now.

The game had passed long-time coach Don Donoher by, a lot of UD fans said. The program had gone stale, they said, after the Flyers slumped to three losing seasons in a row.

Donoher, who had won 437 games in 25 seasons and had taken UD to a runner-up finish to UCLA in the 1967 NCAA Tournament, an NIT championship the year after that and an Elite Eight season in 1984, was unceremoniously fired in March 1989. His teams had played in eight NCAA tournaments.

It only took 22 years and four coaches for Dayton to finally find a coach, Archie Miller, who was good as the one it fired.

It is possible Matta will retire after this season or sometime in the not too distant future for health reasons.

He has had four back surgeries and the most recent one caused nerve damage which left him unable to move his right foot.

But he is only 49 years old and has never worked at anything other than coaching. That would be a tough call for him to make.

If Matta wants to return, he will probably be back in the 2017-18 season.

But if this is the last season of the Matta era and it is not his decision, it will end with shocking impatience and a lack of historical memory of what he has done and what came before him in Ohio State basketball.

By Jim Naveau

[email protected]

Reach Jim Naveau at The Lima News at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.

Reach Jim Naveau at The Lima News at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.

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