Hail Caesar!

By Jake on March 23, 2011 at 1:00p
No one lives to see a second Matta thumbs-down

In the later Roman Empire, there was a tradition whereby two men ruled the empire at the same time. The dominant Emperor took the cognomen Augustus, named after the first emperor Caesar Augustus.  The subordinate Emperor took the cognomen Caesar, named after Julius Caesar. The relationship between the Football and Basketball team works in much the same way. Tressel, as the Augustus, is doubtless the big man on campus. Thad Matta, as the Caesar, works under Tressel’s shadow, yet he’s still a force to reckon with on his own. With the football program dealing with clouds of distraction and controversy, it’s the duty of the Caesar to take command and keep the ship sailing through the murk. While pondering this state of affairs, I couldn’t help but think that Matta may be the best coach we’ve ever had prowling the court. Fred Taylor won the only national championship in Buckeye history. If we're lucky, Thad Matta may join him. But what does the rest of the resume say?

My methodology was simple. I looked at six things; overall win-percentage, conference win-percentage, average conference finish, average number of NCAA tournament wins per year, and average tournament seed over their career. Years when a team didn’t qualify for the tournament counts as a 0. Missing the tournament drags you down big time, just like that Chemistry project you forgot to do ruined your entire quarter. As for the coaches, I began with Fred Taylor because he’s the first real candidate in the modern era. Jim O’Brien gets his wins counted, but not his conference championships.

Here's the overall breakdown of every coach since 1960:

Coach Yrs Coach Ovr win% conf Win% Avg Conf rnk avg seed Avg NCAA rnd
Fred Taylor 18 65.27% 61.54% 3.7 N/A 1.56
Eldon Miller 10 59.18% 53.33% 4.6 12.1 0.90
Gary Williams 3 59.00% 44.44% 6 14.3 0.67
Randy Ayers 8 53.45% 44.44% 6.5 11.9 1.13
Jim O'Brien 7 60.00% 53.98% 10.3 9.6 1.43
Thad Matta 7 76.95% 70.83% 2.9 6.9 1.71

Here's what we see:

Fred Taylor won a title, in only his second season no less. Yet his performance tailed off considerably at the end of his career. While he got off to a roaring start, he left the cupboard bare for his successor Eldon Miller after an abysmal 6 win season. Nonetheless, he's a strong contender statistically, even if he coached before the tournament seeded the teams.

Eldon Miller took the moribund Bucks from the end of the Taylor era and build them into a winner again, but he could never get over the hump. He never made it past the Sweet Sixteen, and made the tournament less than half of his seasons as coach.

Gary Williams was the shortest tenured coach, mainly because he jumped ship at the first opportunity to the Terrapins. He got the team of to a good start, but quitters never prosper.

Randy Ayers had a respectable career, but like Eldon Miller, he never really got over the post-season hump. He had 0 Final Four appearances, and only made the tournament 3 out of 8 years.

Jim O'Brien had a, *ahem*, colorful career. Prior to sanctions, he was leading the Buckeyes into a new Golden Age. A record 4 straight tournament appearances and multiple 1st place finishes in the Big Ten had Ohio State at the top of the Big Ten heap at the turn of the Millenium. I don't believe I need to go into why that particular experiment crashed-and-burned.

Which leads us to Matta. Looking at the data, is there really even an argument as to who is the best Buckeye coach ever? He has, by far, the best winning percentages, in conference and out, coupled with complete control of the Big Ten Trophy. His post season record is unimpeachable, with the only missing element the capstone Championship that Fred Taylor alone can claim. We'll get the chance to see Matta try and make his legacy even more secure in the next week. Matta, perhaps for the first time at Ohio State, will have the most experienced squad on the court all the way through to the Final Four. I, for one, wouldn't want any other Caesar in charge of the Buckeye legions.



The_Lurker's picture

"As for the coaches, I began with Fred Ayers because he’s the first real candidate in the modern era."




Jake's picture

Ha, I kept writing Fred Ayers, over and over again. I thought I caught all of them. I have no idea why my brain decided those two words go well together.

Chris Lauderback's picture

Wasn't Fred Ayres the coach that got busted for handing out gym bags to recruits with horn-rimmed glasses inside? (fixed, btw)

The_Lurker's picture

It seems to me the only thing you've learned is that Caesar is a "salad dressing dude." 

johnblairgobucks's picture

"Good Ole" Fred Ayers......heck of a guy, but his coaching career is more a myth. 

Eldon Williams and Jim Matta were both better.

gravey's picture

I recall people saying about Eldon Miller, "He can make a bad team good and he can make a great team...good". 

Todd-Not Boeckmann's picture

Growing up in the 60s and 70s, I was there for the later Fred Ayers era :D.  Fred Taylor was an excellent coach and recruiter.  The Team he built around Jim the Cougar Cleamons and Luke Witte had the talent to make the Final Four.  Unfortunately, they ran into Ron Behagen, Corky Taylor, Jim Brewer (Yes Cavs fans, that Jim Brewer) and last but certainly not least, Dave WInfield (yes Yankee fans, THAT Dave Winfield)

Most contemporaries agreed that that dispicable night in Minneapolis ruined the game for Fred Taylor.  He never really had the fire in his belly to coach or recruit after that.  I watched that game on TV that day and I will never ever root for Minnesota in basketball ever.  If they played Al Quieda in a non conference game I would cheer Allah Akbar.

On the wall guarding the North Coast from all Weasel invasions.

Buckeye Black's picture

JD Weatherspoon eligible now?  Probably won't see any action, but I thought I heard he would be in uniform.

The_Lurker's picture

Yes, eligible and traveling to Newark. If he plays, it means the game is going extremely well or exceedingly bad.

gregaria's picture

Exceptional blog. Highly interesting and professionally published blog post. I will visit again very soon.
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