WASHINGTON - On the day of the Ohio State men’s basketball team’s Big Ten tournament game against Rutgers, OSU athletic director Gene Smith issued a statement that gave head coach Thad Matta a vote of confidence.
There were rumblings that Matta may step down from the program due to its lack of success the past two seasons. Last year, the team finished 21-14, and lost to Florida in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament. As for the 2016-17 campaign, the Buckeyes lost to Rutgers Wednesday night in the opening round of the conference tournament and currently sit at 17-15.
Aside from the on-court performance, Matta, who has had health issues with his foot and back for years, even shared a story on Tuesday about how a recruit was told Matta was dying.
With all this coming to a head, Smith decided it was time to address the situation via the statement.
Following the loss to the Scarlet Knights, Matta was asked how he felt about Smith taking such action.
“This is a fickle business we do,” Matta said. “Unless you're intimately involved on a daily basis (the critics don’t know), and they choose the negative side of things. Gene and I met a couple weeks ago and he asked me if I wanted to make a statement. I said, ‘No, you don’t have to do that.’ Today he asked, ‘Do we need to do this? People aren’t going to let this thing go.’ I said, ‘If you want to do it, you can do it.’ It blows my mind that sports are at this level. It’s amazing how something like that can become a focal point. It is what it is and you just keep rolling with it.”
Sophomore guard JaQuan Lyle was displeased with all the talk and speculation regarding his head coach.
“I feel like it’s ignorant,” Lyle said following the loss to Rutgers. “I don’t think anybody (on the team) pays attention to any of that. We thought Coach Matta was going to be here next year all year. I don’t know about anybody else but that’s something I already knew.”
Junior forward Jae’Sean Tate noted that Matta shouldn’t be the taking all of the blame.
“Coach Matta always says it’s on him,” Tate said after the Rutgers game. “The media is going to bash him, the fans aren’t going to be happy. But they’ve got to be mad at us, too, as a team. Coach Matta just wants the best for us and he wants us to play the best basketball, he’s a player’s coach.
“We had an embarrassing season this year, but it’s not all on Coach Matta. He’s been the most positive influence the last four years, and one of the best coaches I’ve ever had in my entire life. He takes a lot of hits, he takes a lot of hits for that. I just don’t want you guys to think that it’s all him because he’s not the one out there playing. We are.”
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