Thad Matta: The Buzz From Nike Camp

We ventured to the annual Nike Camp this week in Indianapolis to get feedback from a number of the nation's top coaches on Ohio State's hiring of Thad Matta. Here is what some of the sport's luminaries had to say about OSU's hiring of Matta.

Here were comments from a number of top coaches and basketball analysts gleaned during this week's Nike Camp in Indianapolis on OSU's hiring of Thad Matta as its new men's basketball coach:

* Bruce Weber, Illinois -- "Thad came up through Xavier. One of my old assistants, Alan Major, left Southern Illinois and went to Xavier with him. Again, he's a guy with a lot of energy who has had some instant success as a head coach. You know you're going to have a good coach at a school like Ohio State and I know he will live up to that.

"He's had very good success. He's taken some pretty good players. He'll have a chance to work with some players at Ohio State who are little bit seasoned now. I'm not cheering for him, but I think he'll do a good job."

* Bo Ryan, Wisconsin -- "I coached against him when he was at Butler and also when he was at Xavier. My first year at Wisconsin, we had to go to Xavier and play. He's a great coach and a great guy. He's a student of the game and he studies the game as much as anybody I've come across. I think he'll do well in the Big Ten and he's good for the Big Ten. He can coach. He's developed guys. His teams get better as the season wears on, that's what I've noticed about his teams.

"He's been around the game a long time. I think he'll do fine. He brings knowledge of the game and being a gym rat like he is he has a pretty good feel for it. He's been a good head coach. I've been impressed."

* Mark Few, Gonzaga -- This past year, Matta joined Few and four other coaches as the only ones in Division I college basketball history to log 100 wins in their first four years on the job.

"It's easier since we've been winning," Few said. "That helps you gain confidence. The more your team is successful, the more you believe in what you're doing. For me, I've been in the same spot for a long time. I've had a chance to grow and I knew what we had to work with. For Thad, this is his third job in five years. That's tough because he has to integrate his system again with a bunch of new guys. It's going to be an interesting challenge."

Few talked about the challenge of being a young head coach.

"I have the utmost faith in my staff and in the players we've been able to recruit," he said. "Certainly, you have a huge amount of respect for the people you go up against, but it's not a sense of awe."

* Jay Bilas, ESPN -- "I think that Andy Geiger made a great hire. I've been fortunate to know Thad for a while. His Ohio ties and his understanding of how to recruit in that state should give him a running start. I think the world of him as a teacher and a coach. He is a really good recruiter."

Bilas addressed the controversial nature of OSU's hiring process.

"I think at the end of the day, as long as you get the right guy, it doesn't matter if it takes you 10 minutes or 10 days or two weeks," he said. "That's the important thing. The important thing is getting the right guy. I don't know all the things that were said in the process. But if it were me I would simply say, `I do not discuss my job status.' That way you're not always put in a position to confirm or deny anything because you just don't discuss it. You can't hold guys to a standard of, `Will you take it?' or `Are you interested?' That's not the way it works.

"I think Thad did the right thing by taking that job. It's a better job. I think Ohio State and Illinois are the two best jobs in the Big Ten. I don't know how you could, as a Midwest guy and a Big Ten guy, say no."

Bilas also deflected the notion that Matta's success stems strictly from winning with his predecessors' players.

"You can always detract from what somebody does," he said. "But he did have his own players in there, too. Players develop under him. They did at Butler. He makes kids better and he gets guys to play together, which is a hard thing to do. Everybody looks at basketball as an individual enterprise. To get guys to give up their individual interest for the interest of the team, it's easy to say but it's hard to do. I think Thad does as good job as anybody with that."

* Ed DeChellis, Penn State -- "I think it's a great hire. Obviously, Thad has had a lot of success both at Butler and at Xavier. His teams have made the NCAA Tournament. He has Midwest roots. It's a great opportunity for him and a great opportunity for Ohio State.

"Xavier has lost some great coaches over the years and, for them, it's a tough situation. I don't think it's anything against that university. Sometimes, it's the league that you're in. I think Ohio State may be one of the top 15 jobs in the country. It's nothing against Xavier. It's just a matter of what Ohio State was offering."

* Dan Monson, Minnesota -- "Thad has proven he can coach at the highest level. He's taken teams to the NCAA Tournament. He's competed with the best. He's going to fit right into the Big Ten. He's going to do a great job.

"He's had some great teams here the last couple of years. He's from the state of Ohio. He's proven that he knows people in that state. He's proven himself in the ranks."

* Steve Alford, Iowa -- "He's a great guy and a good friend of mine. He's had an unbelievable run at Butler and at Xavier. I'm sure he will continue that at Ohio State. It should be a good recruiting situation."

Alford discussed the challenge of entering the Big Ten as a head coach.

"I played in it and I coached in it," he said. "He knows that coming in that it is arguably the best league in the country, year in and year out. The big thing is when I was at Manchester and Southwest Missouri State, in each league you've got games that you think will be wins at home or on the road. In the Big Ten, you can never go in and think that way. You have to bring your best every night."

* Roy Williams, North Carolina -- Williams is also on that short list with Few and Matta of coaches to reach 100 wins in four years. He recalled his own early success story and related it to Matta's.

"I was just like Thad -- I had real good players and I just sat over there and clapped for them and smiled and looked good," he said. "Thad will do a great job there. He did great job at Xavier. (Ohio State's) a great job. It's a hard job, I think everybody has to understand that. But I think he will do a fantastic job there."

Williams, faced with his own tough choice a year ago to leave Kansas for UNC, talked about Matta's decision.

"He had a great run at Xavier and he thought it was best to leave," he said. "I'm not one to second guess somebody else. But Thad is a great guy. The fact that we each 100 games in our first four years, it turned my hair gray and his vanished."

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