Former Ohio State head coach called 'Grand Slam' for Pitt

College basketball expert likes Thad Matta

Jeff Hathhorn
March 08, 2018 - 2:13 pm
Kevin Stallings

93.7 The Fan

It’s open season for speculation as to who will be the next Pitt basketball coach.  We will hear names from the biggest (yes some will bring up Sean Miller or John Calipari), most connected (Brandin Knight), to the most obscure assistants in college and the NBA.

Sporting News basketball writer and Pittsburgher Mike DeCourcy was a guest on “Cook and Poni” on 93.7 the Fan and when asked about potential candidates, had one name jump out, former Ohio State head coach Thad Matta.

“Thad is a Hall of Fame level talent, if he’s healthy and you can get him, it’s a grand slam,” DeCourcy said.

Matta is Ohio State’s all-time winningest coach, but fell out of favor after missing the NCAA tournament in each of his final two seasons.  Matta was twice in the Final 4, a NCAA Runner-up and even a NIT champion during his 13 years with the Buckeyes, but there is a catch.

“If he’s healthy from his back issues, he’s an unbelievable coach,” DeCourcy said.  And that’s big concern, Matta is still recovering from back surgery 11 years ago which, at times, makes it hard for him to climb stairs. 

“He’s a Hall of Fame talent,” DeCoursy said of the 50 year-old who also led Xavier and Butler to the NCAA Tournament.  “He averaged 26 wins a year for his entire career and that was with the two tough years at the end of his Ohio State tenure.  I kept doing the math over and over because I couldn’t believe he averaged 26 wins a year.  That’s how good he is.” 

The Fan’s Andrew Fillipponi also asked DeCourcy about a few of the more popular names floating around.

Dan Hurley, head coach at Rhode Island-“I think Dan will have other options, but the question is ‘what is the market this year’?  What opens that would be more appealing?”

Eric Musselman, head coach at Nevada-“He’s really sharp, he’s really bright.  He’s coached in the NBA.  He’s done a great job at Nevada.  He’s more of a Western guy, so now you are hiring a resume.  He’s certainly a very good coach, but how does he connect with the problem of turning Pitt into an ACC school.  Most of Eric’s career has been left of the Mississippi.”

Chris Jent, current Atlanta Hawks assistant coach and assistant with four other NBA teams.  Jent was an interim head coach of the Orlando Magic and assistant under Matta at Ohio State-“Chris played in the NBA, worked in the NBA, I knew him when he was on the staff there (Ohio State), he’s a really bright guy, great player development guy.  He has not been a head coach at the college level.  That is someone you would be hiring and he would have to have a definitive idea of making Pitt work.”

As the search moves forward, DeCourcy sees a chance for success and the opportunity for the next Panthers head coach to get more than two seasons.

“As long as he’s an engaging person with a good track record, I think he will,” DeCourcy said.  “I think they failed in both of those counts last time.  Fixing 0-19 is easier than fixing ‘How come you never got to the Final 4’.”