Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of the day Thad Matta’s 13-year tenure as the Ohio State men’s basketball coach came to an end. Monday evening at the Medallion Club in Westerville, Matta was back in his old stomping grounds as he was honored by the Agonis Club as its 2018 person of the year.
During a speech that lasted roughly 20 minutes, Matta listed off what he considers to have been his favorite moments while coaching the Buckeyes. It’s not a complete list, and Matta prefaced it with this: “I have over a thousand great memories of my time at Ohio State.”
On the anniversary of his ouster, here’s a look at what Matta cited to the crowd in the order in which he recalled the events.
VIDEO: March 12, 2010: Ohio State 69, Michigan 68 (Big Ten tournament quarterfinal at Indianapolis).
Matta: “3.2 seconds to go. I’m so mad at our players that we’re in this position down two against Michigan because we had a bye week leading into the tournament. I knew we were going to play bad; I didn’t know we were going to play as bad as we did. I tell David Lighty, get out there, I want to see what defense they’re in, then we’ll call a timeout. I look out and they’re not picking us up, so I look at David and say, ‘Let’s go.’
“The ball’s in air. Evan Turner gets the ball and he’s dribbling upcourt and all I’m thinking about in my mind is what I’m going to say in the locker room, because I knew the team had a chance to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. So I’m going, ‘Do I flip out?’ Here goes the ball. It’s going and going and I’m like, ‘Maybe I should be nice,’ then the shot goes in and I’m like, ‘We just won the basketball game.’ That was one of the weirdest moments in my time.
“That tells you how a coach thinks. I’m thinking about the next game while the one game’s still going on.”
VIDEO: March 5, 2013: Ohio State 67, Indiana 58, at Bloomington
Matta: “Senior night. They had clinched a share of the Big Ten championship (two nights before). (Victor) Oladipo, (Cody) Zeller, all those guys. It was a 9 o’clock Tuesday tip, and I don’t like staying in hotels so we go over the day of the game. (Monday) night, 11:30, I text all the players and said — it might have been made up — but I said, ‘My security guy over at Indiana that always takes care of us just texted me and said they got backup for the riots when Indiana wins the Big Ten championship tomorrow.
“As you’d have it, we end up winning the game by nine points. I remember Aaron Craft looking over at me and he goes, ‘No celebration tonight, coach.’ ”
VIDEO: March 4, 2012: Ohio State 72, Michigan State 70, at East Lansing
Matta: “William Buford’s shot. Off-the-dribble handoffs, we knew they were switching and we knew (Travis) Trice would take him off the dribble handoff. Great shot. Won us a share of the Big Ten championship. That was on Draymond Green’s senior day. Just a great moment walking into that locker room and the excitement that we had.”
VIDEO: March 6, 2011: Ohio State 93, Wisconsin 65, at Value City Arena
Matta: “Senior day. The Wisconsin Massacre. I’m still upset because Jon (Diebler) missed a three and then we went on to make 14 straight threes. He was the first guy to miss and then we never missed again. There’s two times when you know a player gave you everything he had. One was if they were emotional on senior day, and if they were emotional on the last loss of the season.”
VIDEO: Feb. 25, 2007: Ohio State 49, Wisconsin 48, at Value City Arena
Matta: “Michael Conley, 12 seconds to go, No. 1 versus 2 in the Schott, CBS Sunday afternoon game. We win the game, we win the Big Ten championship. They win, they get a share. We’re down one, I call timeout and I drew it up: ‘OK, Mike, here’s what we’ve got. We’ve got a ‘horns action.’ I really don’t care which way you go. I trust you’re going to make the right decision.’
I’ll never forget Greg Oden’s sitting in the huddle and he goes (tapping the side of his head while whispering): ‘Smart.’ Sure enough, Michael shoots a right-handed floater — he is left-handed — and we won the game.
That was also the game with the gum incident. If you remember that game, after the game I called my mom on my drive home as I always did and she answers the phone and goes, ‘Oh my God, son.’ I’m like, ‘Mom?’ She’s like, ‘Oh my God, son.’ I’m like, ‘We won.’ She goes, ‘You dropped your gum.’ I said, ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about.’ I go home, we have a huge party with the staff at my house after the game and I said, ‘Did they put it on TV?’ She says, ‘Oh, they showed it about 100 times.’ Sure enough I go home, turn on ESPN, there I am. They’ve got the telestrator out. I will say this: It got me a lifetime membership to Wrigley’s gum.”
VIDEO: April 2, 2007: Florida 84, Ohio State 75, NCAA championship game, at Atlanta
Matta: “They’re doing the starting lineups before the national championship game. To start that season, I went up to Michael Conley and I handed him a basketball and I said to him, ‘Run my team until I tell you to stop.’ So I’m sitting there and four guys have been called and Michael’s still sitting there in front of 75,000 people and they’re taking pictures and I said, ‘Remember what I told you when we started?’ He said, ‘Yes sir, coach. Lead your team until you tell me stop.’
I said, ‘For God’s sake, don’t stop now.’
So we come in and we break the huddle and I’m getting ready to sit down and I feel this tap on my shoulder. It’s Mark Titus. He says, ‘Coach, I just want you to know: I’ll be down there at the end of the bench. I’ve got five fouls and I can’t take them with me after tonight.’ He wanted (Al) Horford. Talk about the greatest moment of lightening the load.”
VIDEO: March 17, 2007: Ohio State 78, Xavier 71, OT, NCAA Tournament second-round game in Lexington, Ky.
Matta: “Ron Lewis’ shot. I can still remember Justin Cage missing that free throw and we’re coming down. Nobody ever knew at that point what a dribble-down was. Michael Conley dribbled at Ron Lewis’ man, plowed him over, flipped it up and Ron made the shot and we ended up winning the game.”
Video: March 6, 2005: Ohio State 65, Illinois 64, at Value City Arena
Matta: “Matt Sylvester. The shot against Illinois. Now I will say this: if you’re a true fan you remember the play with 4 minutes and 42 seconds to go. Je’Kel Foster was coming down in defensive transition and he back-tips a ball, goes into the press row or cheerleaders or whatever was there, turns back around, comes back out, back-tips it again, jumps on the ball, Dee Brown jumps on him, foul on Dee Brown, his fourth foul. One of the greatest plays I’ve ever seen in my time.
“They miss the shot, Brandon Fuss-Cheatham gets the ball and he’s walking the ball up the court like there’s 39 minutes left. I’m 30-something years old at the time sprinting up the court saying, ‘Get the ball and bring it here. Timeout!’ The ‘Schott is going crazy, we’ve got a chance to do something special.’ I turn to my coaches and say, ‘What do you want to do? We’re down two, 64-62. First guy says, ‘Go inside to Terence (Dials).’ Second guy says, ‘Go inside to Terence.’ Last guy says, ‘Go inside to Terence.’ I say, ‘Are you guys crazy? You want to play these guys for five more minutes? We’re going for the win.’
“I go in the huddle and say, ‘Fellas, we’re going for the win.’ They start celebrating like we already won. I draw the play up. It’s an old pin play. They start cheering and clapping and I say, ‘He’s got to make the shot, guys. Let me show it to you one more time.’ We’re bringing Tony (Stockman) off, he was our best shooter, and we’re going to pin it for Matt. Matt’s going to step back, Je’Kel’s in the corner, boom. We break the huddle, Brandon Fuss-Cheatham looks at me and I swear to God goes, ‘Who am I passing to?’ I said, ‘The guy who’s going to be wide open.’
“Sure enough, we win. Matt (Marinchick) and Brandon and Tony and J.J. (Sullinger) and Terence and Je’Kel and Matt Sylvester, they should hang their names at the top of the rafters because what they did for Ohio State basketball is something that they put their stamp on it, and that game was huge for that.”
Story: June 2017
Matta: “Last summer, my wife and Matt Terwilliger threw me a party at my house with my former players. Guys came from literally all over the world. They all showed up to surprise me. To see them with their kids, to see them being successful, I’m shocked that they’re drinking wine — I didn’t like that, my wine cellar got attacked — but to see them being sophisticated, to see them as grown men, at that point we knew we had done our job.”
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