Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Musketeers' Matta: No, Bucks

XU coach says he's not a candidate for OSU job

By Dustin Dow
Enquirer staff writer

Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger asked for and received permission to contact Thad Matta last week, according to a high-level Xavier source, but the Musketeers coach isn't interested in the Buckeyes' job.

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

Since Geiger fired men's basketball coach Jim O'Brien June 8, rumors have circulated that Matta would be one of the Buckeyes' top targets.

Jim Cleamons - The Lakers assistant reportedly interviewed with the Buckeyes Tuesday.

Kevin Stallings - The Vanderbilt coach reportedly will interview with OSU today.

Willis Wilson - The Rice coach was to interview Tuesday.

Tom Crean - Would not confirm reported contact with OSU, and in a statement Saturday said he's happy coaching Marquette.

Mark Gottfried - The Alabama coach would not confirm contact by OSU.

Xavier athletic director Dawn Rogers would neither confirm nor deny that Geiger had asked for permission to interview Matta, but Matta said Tuesday that he has not been contacted by Ohio State and does not expect any communication to occur.

A Xavier source Tuesday night said Geiger probably has been made aware that Matta wants to remain at XU.

Still, the perception that Matta is a candidate is likely to linger until Ohio State fills its coaching vacancy.

"I'm not a very public person, so nobody's ever going to know how happy I am at Xavier," Matta said. "... Our players have three (Atlantic 10) rings in three years. We've been to the round of 32, round of 32 and Elite Eight (in the NCAA Tournament). I'm sitting here and I probably have one of the longest contracts in the country. I love that."

Matta, 36, is signed through 2013 by Xavier. School officials extended and renegotiated the incentives in his contract after last season, in which Matta led Xavier to the Elite Eight, the furthest it has ever advanced in the NCAA Tournament.

"Thad had an outstanding season," Rogers said. "We feel very committed to him, and it's important to us that he knows that."

Rogers declined to discuss the specifics of the contract, but it is said to be worth more than $800,000 annually, according to a Xavier source.

"It's very fair and very competitive," said Rogers, who added that Xavier has been willing to continually rework Matta's contract since he arrived at Xavier in 2001. His record at the school is 78-23 through three seasons.

O'Brien made $1.2 million per year at Ohio State before Geiger fired him after the coach admitted to paying recruit Aleksandar Radojevic $6,000 in 1999.

One of Xavier's primary recruiting pursuits in the class of 2005, Chaminade-Julienne's Derrick Brown, said he is watching the Ohio State situation closely.

Xavier is high on Brown's list of finalists, and he said he has asked Matta more than once about Ohio State.

"I obviously want to know who the (Xavier) coach is going to be before I commit anywhere," said Brown, who added that Matta told him last week he "would probably not" be involved in the Ohio State coaching search.

Brown is visiting North Carolina State today and said he wants to decide among North Carolina State, Xavier and Michigan State within two to three weeks.



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