Thursday, July 8, 2004

Xavier fans a bit blue over Matta's departure



By Maggie Downs
Enquirer staff writer

Fans at Xavier University are pleased with Thad Matta's record, but they're upset he's leaving the team after just three years.

Junior Johnathan Simon, 19, follows Xavier basketball closely, since two of his best friends play. He said he was surprised Matta was going to Ohio State even though the coach said he wasn't a candidate for the job.

"I found it kind of surprising that he was going to leave," Simon said.

Matta told the Enquirer he wasn't in the running for the Ohio State job: "I'm not a candidate. It's that plain and that simple," Matta said just more than a week ago.

Now Simon and his friends are concerned about the future of the team. Under Matta's leadership, the Musketeers went to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament during the 2003-2004 season.

"We're all worried about what's going to happen this season," Simon said.

Teresa Wones, 18, a freshman, said she didn't think Matta had any reason to go to another school. "Last year took us to the Elite Eight, so I don't know why he would leave us," she said.

Senior Lakisha Love, 21, said Matta didn't just give the school a winning team - he gave students some heart.

"He was tremendous for our success, particularly this past season, especially in bringing back school spirit," she said. "My freshman year, we didn't have much spirit at all. But this past year, he brought back hope."

Graduate student Mike Evans, 24, hopes the next coach will continue to boost the team's profile. "We when got Thad, it wasn't like we got Duke's coach. He was a no-name," he said. "But we took him in and he did a great job. Maybe lightning will strike twice."

E-mail mdowns@enquirer.com




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