Miller and Matta continue strong relationship

Sean Miller and Thad Matta have known each other for quite a while. Read on to see where the relationship started, where it is now, and more.

Thursday's game between Arizona and Ohio State is not short of storylines, but one of the biggest may be the relationship between Sean Miller and Ohio State coach Thad Matta.

"Thad Matta is probably my best friend in coaching," Miller said. "He's a guy that means a lot to me and I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for him. We've worked together both as assistant coaches, and I was fortunate to be brought up as an assistant coach at Xavier when he was the head coach. I learned a lot from him and had a great time together, and because of that we know Ohio State very well."

The two met when they coached together at Miami of Ohio under Herb Sendek and their relationship has remained strong ever since.

"That's when we met, so that would've been 1993 or 1994," Miller said. "We were on the same staff when we played Arizona in one of the biggest set ups in Arizona tournament history.

"I think we played Arizona at 9 a.m. pacific time and all the way across the country if you remember that, and we had a really good team that year and we were about 30 miles from campus. I'm sure Coach Olson thinks about that to this day. But Thad and I were on that staff together, so that goes way back."

In addition, Miller was drawn to Matta largely because of his personality and how competitive he is.

"Thad is a very unique person," Miller said. "He has that quality where you want to follow him, that is one of the many reasons he is such a great coach. The players love playing for him and he has a way of making things fun. He is also one of the most competitive people I've ever met. He has a unique combination, he sometimes puts you to sleep and makes you think that he's not trying when in reality he has that formula where people like him and follow him and he's great at what he does.

"He's certainly a great competitor. He is an avid physical fitness freak. That's probably a reason why his back situation is what it is today. He would run 20 miles at a time. The physical condition that he is in is amazing to this day. I would've been the opposite, I would've been doing whatever I'm supposed to do other than that. In a funny way, that combination made us get along so well."

Before the tournament, Miller and Matta talked and discussed the subject of whether or not they could meet in the tournament.

"We talked before the tournament started," Miller said. "Wishful thinking, hoping that we would both be in L.A., but you know how that sounds better than reality, but here we are, and it's exciting. I don't want to make too much of it with my relationship with him because this is about the players on both teams, and there's a lot at stake here on Thursday, and I think both of us know that."

Although Miller obviously does not want to lose this game, he does admit that he will always be a fan of Matta and Ohio State.

"I don't think we'll talk a whole lot between now and then, but if I were to lose in this round, I will always pull for him and hope that he does well," Miller said. "This is Ohio State's fourth straight Sweet 16, and you think about some of the players on their team, they have incredible NCAA tournament experience, and they were in last year's Final Four. They're used to big arenas and the big stage, and that's one of the things that makes them such a great team."

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