By Bill Koch
Enquirer staff writer
Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger took his time finding a replacement for basketball coach Jim O'Brien, who was fired June 8, but once Xavier University coach Thad Matta got involved, the process moved quickly.
Geiger said he first met with Matta at Cincinnati's Lunken Airport on June 28.
He said his first contact with Matta by telephone took place "the week before that."
After meeting with Matta, Geiger narrowed his search to the XU coach, Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings and Rice coach Willis Wilson.
Stallings and Wilson both interviewed on the OSU campus this week before Matta, who flew to Columbus on Wednesday morning, met at the Schottenstein Center with Geiger and members of an OSU advisory committee, then met with OSU president Karen Holbrook at her home.
Matta left Columbus and returned home to Cincinnati without having been offered the job. Late Wednesday afternoon, Geiger called and informed him the job was his if he wanted it.
Asked if Matta accepted the offer right away, Geiger said, "Pretty much."
Matta informed XU athletic director Dawn Rogers of his decision shortly before 7 p.m., after which Rogers met with the XU players.
Geiger said he considered Matta as a possible replacement for O'Brien from the start.
"He was pretty much on everybody's 'A' list," Geiger said.
After meeting with Matta on Wednesday, Geiger said Matta rose above the other two candidates because of his "intelligence and energy. Obviously he cares a lot about the guys who play the game."
Geiger said he was aware of Matta's comments last week that he was not a candidate for the Ohio State job.
"That didn't bother me," he said.
"I understand that he felt pretty good about Xavier. It was very hard (for him), a very difficult thing."
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