After Tuesday’s loss to Virginia, the Buckeyes have now lost 4 games in a row. Despite a valiant effort against one of the best teams in the nation, there is discussion among Ohio State fans about moving on from Thad Matta. It’s an interesting discussion, but ultimately an overreaction when you consider the big picture.
Let’s be honest. We’re not having this discussion if Ohio State beats Florida in the 2007 National Championship. Period. Championships mean everything when you’re talking about schools with outstanding athletic programs like Ohio State. But winning the CBB National Championship is insanely difficult. For reference, here are the last 20 coaches to win the championship: Mike Krzyzewski, Kevin Ollie, Rick Pitino, John Calipari, Jim Calhoun, Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Bill Self, Billy Donovan, Billy Donovan, Roy Williams, Jim Calhoun, Jim Boeheim, Gary Williams, Mike Krzyzewski, Tom Izzo, Jim Calhoun, Tubby Smith, Lute Olson, and Rick Pitino. You’ll notice that the same coaches and teams keep showing up. You need a great coach, a great program, and a lot of luck to win a NCAA college basketball championship.
We want to be one of the programs on this list – that’s why we’re discussing this as fans. But Matta is winning half the battle just by getting us in the tournament year-after-year. The most important job of a college coach is recruiting and Matta consistently brings in great recruits. Even if it feels like this year is a lost cause, we might be one phenomenal freshman away from being a championship contender next year (Kobi Simmons???).
The big question is who would be better? Who’s the alternative? You obviously need an elite coach to be one of the best college basketball schools, but those are hard to some by and there aren’t obvious solutions that I’ve heard. Looking at Matta’s coaching tree, there are certainly some elite coaches, but they all have nice jobs elsewhere. Why would you replace a great coach with one who isn’t better?
It’s also interesting that this topic is coming up at the tail end of our 4 game skid considering we’ve looked significantly better each game. Anyone who thought a team this young could be successful right out of the gate was delusional. This team was supposed to struggle early and get better as the season progressed. If you’re watching closely, that’s exactly what’s happening. These freshmen are already much better than they were at the beginning of the year.
Another perspective on Matta that often gets overlooked is that he runs a clean program. Would you rather be Memphis and basically starting from scratch after coach Cal ran amok with their program? Would you rather be UNC and on the verge of being irrelevant if sanctions come down? Syracuse? Matta runs a tight ship and expects his guys to be honest and responsible.
Finally, I think me and the rest of Buckeye nation have to take at least a little part of the blame. Crowds at the Schott are notoriously quiet and we don’t even fill the venue unless we’re a preseason top 10 team.
Best arenas boost energy/excitement just by walking in. OSU’s does opposite. Caters to families/kids and alienates diehards. This is result.
— Mark Titus (@clubtrillion) December 2, 2015
We don’t care about basketball until the football season is over. Ohio State has always been a football school, but surely we can share some of that passion with our other athletic programs. And as far as football schools go, who has a better basketball program? Most of the basketball programs that are better than ours are concerned more with basketball than any other sport. As a fan base so passionate about football, we’re lucky to have a great basketball program too.
There’s a reason we’re upset with Matta. Losing sucks and Matta’s not perfect by any means. He doesn’t always win the in-game chess match between coaches. Players like Sam Thompson and Amir Williams never reached the potential a lot of fans saw in them. But in the grand scheme of college hoops, he is a great coach and there’s no sense in losing sight of that even if we struggle from time-to-time.