Should Thad Matta Get Credit For Ohio State's Resurgence?

Should Thad Matta Get Credit For Ohio State's Resurgence?

BuckeyeWire

Should Thad Matta Get Credit For Ohio State's Resurgence?


Ohio State has perhaps been the most pleasant surprise in all of NCAA basketball. Chris Holtmann is the new man pulling the strings, but how much of the success should former coach Thad Matta get?


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How Much Credit Should Thad Matta Get For The Ohio State Resurgence?

Coupled by Ohio State’s impressive win at home against Iowa, in combination with Purdue’s loss at Michigan State, the Buckeyes now have sole possession of first place in the Big Ten?

Pinch yourselves Buckeye fans.

Who would have dreamed up this storybook scenario? Not even the most ardent Buckeye supporter would have predicted all that’s happened this year to put the team in a position to win a Big Ten title.

Who Gets The Credit?

Chris Holtmann certainly deserves credit. He’s the new man in charge calling all the shots and putting the puzzle pieces together — and the team has responded.

But what about Thad Matta? Holtmann and opposing coaches (most notably Michigan State’s Tom Izzo) have been quick to credit the winningest basketball coach in Ohio State history, for what he has left behind.

So, should Matta get a lot of this credit? Furthermore, do you wonder where this team would be if he was in charge still?

Remember, he got let go in the most awkward of circumstances, at a time that didn’t make a whole lot of sense. There was a statement of support from athletic director Gene Smith in March of last year, so you thought he’d get at least one more chance to get things back to where everyone got accustomed to having them in Columbus.

Then, in a about-face, Smith fired Matta on June 8, just three months later after a meeting in which he felt the program needed to go another direction.

In between there, we saw a lot of defections and somewhat orchestrated departures that Thad most certainly had something to do with.

Setting The Table

Gone was the mercurial Jaquan Lyle, who had apparently had an on again off again desire to play for Ohio State. He was a talent, but his basketball IQ and desire was lacking. He quit the team, came back, and then “quit” the team again apparently prior to news of an arrest in May.

Hmm.

Center Trevor Thompson was supposed to come back for his senior season, but somebody encouraged/allowed the kid to declare for the NBA draft. He was predictably not selected. He too, kept flirting with moving on, so the appearance was that he did not want to be a college student, and so away he went.

All of that gave way to the class coming in, and an old face getting healthy in Keita-Bates Diop. Let’s not forget that freshman center Kaleb Wesson, Bates-Diop, Jae-Sean Tate, and Kam Williams are all Matta guys. They are the core of this team. Micha Potter and Andre Wesson have had very good minutes of the bench lately too, and yes, Matta also brought them to Columbus.

So don’t we have to give Matta at least some credit for where this year’s team is? These are high character guys now. The subtracting that Matta did, has resulted in a gain to the chemistry and play of the current team, and Holtmann has been quick to point that out in more than one occasion.

There’s also this though; That Matta was indeed responsible for the decline of the program over the last three years. He recruited the guys that just weren’t a great fit for the program. As things began to slip a little, he probably took a chance on some guys that he wouldn’t have normally, and it just didn’t pan out.

It happens.

Purely Speculation

It’s impossible to know what this team would be under Matta, but you get the feeling that Gene Smith made the right call. Thad will always be remembered as one of the great coaches in Ohio State history, but the wear and tear of the grind that is college basketball recruiting and the off-the-field babysitting seemed to be getting to him.

It was time.

It’s possible that Ohio State would still be the story of college basketball, but there in-lies the rub. With Holtmann we know this team has come together. We know he went out and got an Andrew Dakich from the Death Star (talk about bold). We know he got some pieces late with Musa Jallow and Kyle Young to round out a respectable recruiting class. With Matta, we can merely speculate.

So give Matta credit. He certainly deserves some. He was playing with a less-than full deck of cards, but it was the hand he dealt himself in a lot of cases.

Holtmann took that hand and raised the stakes.

 

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