Thad Matta will not continue as Ohio State's basketball coach, the school announced Monday afternoon.
"While this may be a surprise to many, it's the right thing for our program at this time," said OSU athletic director Gene Smith, who cited poor recruiting this offseason as his motivation for approaching Matta last Friday about making a change.
Smith said Matta agreed it was time. The Buckeyes -- thanks to players leaving the program and subpar recruiting -- are projected to miss the NCAA Tournament next season for the third consecutive year. Matta, as a head coach, had previously never missed the NCAA Tournament twice in a row.
Matta has been Ohio State's coach since 2004. He won five Big Ten regular-season titles, four Big Ten Tournament titles and made the Final Four twice -- first in 2007 with Greg Oden and Mike Conley, then again in 2012 with Jared Sullinger and Aaron Craft. But the program had taken an undeniable turn in recent years. Ohio State missed the NCAA Tournament in 2016 and 2017 -- and not a single member of the 2015 recruiting class that ranked fifth nationally remains on campus.
Matta coached at Butler for one season and at Xavier for three before spending the last 13 at Ohio State, where he was 337-123. Add it up, and he has 17 years as a Division I coach on his resume. He made the NCAA Tournament in 13 of the first 14 seasons he was eligible but missed it each of the past two.
Yes, Matta is only 49 years old. But it's well known that he has struggled with his health since a botched back surgery in 2007. So it's not a stretch to suggest the downturn in the program is at least partly connected to those health issues.
"My only goal now is to get healthy," Matta said Monday.
Asked if he'd still be OSU's coach if not for health issues, Matta answered, "Yeah, probably."
Smith said Ohio State will conduct a national search that will begin immediately. It's reasonable to expect Xavier's Chris Mack, Butler's Chris Holtmann, Wichita State's Gregg Marshall and even Oklahoma City Thunder coach Billy Donovan to be among those at or near the top of OSU's list of possible candidates. But whether any of those men would be willing to make a change -- especially Marshall or Donovan -- remains unclear.