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Published: Thursday, 7/8/2004

Matta of fact: Ohio State hires coach from Xavier

BY RON MUSSELMAN
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

A week after saying he was not a candidate for the Ohio State coaching job, Xavier's Thad Matta had a change of heart.

He decided to contact OSU athletic director Andy Geiger about the vacancy, after all.

It's a good thing he did.

Matta, who will turn 37 on Sunday, yesterday was chosen as the new man to lead the Buckeyes' basketball program. He will formally be introduced at a news conference tomorrow in Columbus.

"We have extended an offer, he's accepted it, and we're excited about it," Ohio State sports information director Steve Snapp said.

Matta got the offer after interviewing with Geiger, members of OSU's search committee, and university president Karen Holbrook. Matta informed Xavier athletic director Dawn Rogers of his decision early last night. Geiger originally asked Rogers two weeks ago for permission to speak to Matta.

He replaces Jim O?Brien, who was fired June 8 after violating NCAA rules by giving $6,000 to a recruit who never enrolled at the university. The Buckeyes, coming off a 14-16 season, likely are facing NCAA sanctions.

"We wish Thad Matta well and we will move forward in the best interest of our student-athletes, campus community, and loyal Xavier fans," Rogers said. "I always had the uneasy feeling that Thad might be the next Ohio State coach. Ultimately, he did what he needed to do to be where he wanted to be as a coach."

Matta, rumored to be a frontrunner for the job since OSU's coaching search began a month ago, denied he was interested in the job just last week.

"I'm not a candidate. It's that plain and that simple," he said then.

He took Xavier to the Elite Eight round of the NCAA tournament last season. The Musketeers' season ended with a 66-63 loss to Duke in the finals of the Atlanta Regional.

Matta is 102-31 (a .767 winning

percentage) in four seasons as a Division I-A coach. He spent one season at Butler, going 24-8 at his alma mater, and the last three at Xavier, where he replaced Skip Prosser and went 78-23 in three seasons.

He is one of six coaches in NCAA history to have reached the 20-win plateau in four years, and his teams have won some sort of championship in each of his four seasons as a head coach. Matta, whose Xavier teams had a 19-4 record in March, was signed through the 2012-13 season. He reportedly earned $800,000 per season. O'Brien, meanwhile, was paid approximately $1.2 million.

Matta also has been an assistant at Indiana State, Butler, Miami (Ohio), and Western Carolina. He was a high school basketball standout at Hoopeston-East Lynn in Hoopeston, Ill.

And he was a two-year starter for Butler after transferring from Southern Illinois. He led the Bulldogs in assists (100) and 3-point field goal percentage (43.3 percent) in 1987-88 and in free throw percentage in 1988-89 (87.2).

He served as a team captain on Barry Collier's first team in 1989-90 and finished his career in sixth place on Butler's all-time list for free throw percentage (80.0).

OSU interim coach Rick Boyages also was expected to be interviewed yesterday afternoon, but he was not interviewed after Matta was offered the job.

The search committee, never formally identified by Geiger, consisted of former Ohio State players Bill Hosket, Clark Kellogg, Rick Smith, and current team captain Terence Dials.

On Tuesday, Geiger, the search committee and Holbrook met with Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings and Rice's Willis Wilson. It was the second interview for both candidates. Stallings was the runner-up to O'Brien when the position was filled in 1997.

Others known to have interviewed for the OSU job include Penn's Fran Dunphy and Los Angeles Lakers assistant Jim Cleamons, a former Buckeyes player. Both were interviewed off-campus last week.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Contact Ron Musselman at:

mussel@theblade.com

or 419-724-6474.



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