Thursday, July 8, 2004

In reversal, Matta takes OSU job

XU coach had insisted he wasn't candidate

By Dustin Dow
Enquirer staff writer

Head basketball coach Thad Matta is leaving Xavier University for a job he has coveted since it became open a month ago.

Matta, who coached at Xavier for the past three years, accepted the head-coaching job at Ohio State University after interviewing Wednesday morning in Columbus with OSU Athletic Director Andy Geiger and President Karen Holbrook.

Matta told Xavier Athletic Director Dawn Rogers of his decision shortly before 7 p.m.

He had been at Ohio State from 7 a.m., when he was seen entering OSU's Schottenstein Center with Geiger, until about 11:30 a.m., when he flew out of a private Columbus airport.

When contacted Wednesday at 7:20 p.m., Xavier sophomore Justin Cage said he had not yet been notified by Matta that the coach would be taking over at Ohio State.

Later Wednesday evening, Matta met with the Musketeers team.

"I mean, it hurts," Cage said, "but it's not going to stop what we're doing at Xavier. We've still got a great thing going ...

"I support him. Life has to move on."

Ohio State is expected to introduce Matta as its new coach Friday.

After firing OSU coach Jim O'Brien June 8, Geiger asked Xavier for permission to speak with Matta.

Xavier sources said that Wednesday's meeting was not the first contact between Geiger and Matta during this search.

Matta, Geiger and other Ohio State officials met early in the process in Cincinnati, those sources said.

Sources also said Matta was wrestling with the decision Tuesday night about whether he would go to Columbus for the interview.

He did not tell Rogers until late Tuesday of that decision.

"Thad was very honest with me," Rogers said, "and he kept me updated every step of the way. I knew where he was in the process with Ohio State."

Rogers declined to comment when she was asked whether she knew that Matta had met with Geiger multiple times and had been in communication with him during the past week. She also declined to discuss details of Matta's contract, which could include an expensive buyout, considering Matta is signed through 2013 at Xavier.

Last week, Matta told the Enquirer: "I'm not a candidate. It's that plain and that simple." He also told the Enquirer he had not been contacted by Ohio State and did not foresee any contact.

Matta did not respond to messages left on his cell phone Wednesday.

"I think ultimately Thad was trying to protect the program," Rogers said. "Protect the student athletes and protect the recruits that are important to Xavier. He was doing what he thought was in the best interest of our program."

The focus now turns to Matta's successor.

Xavier associate head coach Sean Miller reportedly is the leading candidate for the job, and could be hired within the week, sources said.

Wednesday night, before she had heard from Matta about his decision, Rogers called the XU players into the team locker room.

"I wanted to assure them that, regardless of the outcome, that if Thad was not our coach, that we would move quickly and have open dialogue with the players, and they would know what was going on," Rogers said.

Matta contacted Rogers shortly after she had met with the players, and she conducted a brief news conference at 7:30 p.m.

"Until the process was done and Ohio State named a coach, I always had the uneasy feeling that Thad might be the next (OSU) head coach," Rogers said. "I was not taking anything for granted."


In reversal, Matta takes OSU job
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