Ohio State is a football school, but the men's basketball program's reached new heights in Thad Matta's 11 seasons as head coach.
The 2014-15 season as a whole, however, was not one of those high points.
Though the Buckeyes reached the NCAA Tournament for the seventh consecutive season in March, Ohio State lost double-digit games for the second time in as many seasons, finishing 24-11. Arizona shoved aside the D'Angelo Russell-led Buckeyes, 73-58, in the third round of the big dance to end the season March 21.
Ohio State's only suffered at least 10 losses in back-to-back season one other time in Matta's tenure, in 2007-08 and 2008-09.
Despite the sometimes frustrating on-court performances, the Buckeyes graduated four players from last year's team — Sam Thompson, Shannon Scott, Amir Williams and Trey McDonald — and Russell was the second overall pick in June's NBA Draft. Matta also became the school's all-time winningest coach March 12 with his 298th victory when Ohio State defeated Minnesota, 79-73, in the Big Ten Tournament.
To no surprise, all those elements — in addition to Vice President and Athletic Director Gene Smith yearning for more from Matta's club on the court — were highlighted in the performance reviews for the head coach and assistants Jeff Boals, Dave Dickerson and Greg Paulus.
The information is a result of an open records request submitted by Eleven Warriors Aug. 6 and filled Tuesday by Ohio State.
Reviews were conducted and submitted near the end of June 2015, all meeting the deadline of June 30 put in place by Human Resources.
Thad Matta: Head Coach
Matta gave rave reviews to each of his assistants. Of the eight core competencies — academic success of the program, competitive success of the program, commitment to compliance, student-athlete welfare, leadership, communication, budget management and donor relations — Dickerson, Boals and Paulus all received a rating of exceeds expectations from the head coach.
Matta earned the same marks from Smith in his review completed June 24, except for one area: Competitive success of the program.
In the box designated for key areas of improvement or growth, Smith wrote: "We need to improve our competitive success. This past year presented challenges, but the new recruits will certainly help."
Ohio State's 2015 recruiting class of JaQuan Lyle, A.J. Harris, Mickey Mitchell, Austin Grandstaff and Daniel Giddens (all four-star athletes according to 247Sports' composite rankings) is ranked 11th in the country by the recruiting site. The mass exodus of the four graduating seniors, Russell and graduate transfer Anthony Lee, allows for plenty of new faces to work into the fold for Matta. Clearly, Smith recognizes this and see the opportunity for improvement.
Smith, though, did note the excellent graduation rate Matta's program witnessed following the season, with Scott, Thompson and McDonald graduating in the spring and Williams in the summer. He called that portion of Matta's performance "exemplar."
In Matta's self-appraisal, the head coach wrote of the need for him and his staff to instill maturity to their players on and off the court, improve the team's offensive output, get back to playing man-to-man defense and re-establish the program's five core values, though he misspelled "re-establish."
Dave Dickerson: Associate Head Coach
Dickerson's responsibilities within the program largely fall on working with the post players, an area Ohio State's struggled since the exit of Jared Sullinger in 2012. Williams, McDonald and Lee combined for 12.6 points, 9.6 rebounds per game in 2014-15, though Lee missed the final 14 games with a groin injury.
As stated above, Dickerson's performance earned exceeded expectations marks from Matta. The head coach called Dickerson "passionate" and "a leader on and off the court."
"He is relentless in his efforts to recruit the highest level of student-athletes who are committed to success in academics and competition," Matta wrote.
For Dickerson's areas of improvement or growth, Matta noted the focus on the fundamental teachings of basketball, recruiting and for Dickerson to continue "the pursuit of highest priority of winning."
In his self-appraisal, completed June 30, Dickerson's goals fell in line with what Matta wishes to see more from him and he intends to attend "more professional opportunities" in the future. He also said he didn't face any challenges in the past year.
Jeff Boals: Assistant Coach
Boals' role as defensive coordinator was put to the test last season. Matta elected to switch from zone to man-to-man defense midway through the season, a challenge Boals noted in his review, conducted June 30.
In his self-appraisal, Boals noted how Ohio State finished 37th in the country and fourth in the Big Ten in defensive efficiency rating. He declared his performance exceeded expectations with regards to recruiting, as defensive coordinator and the welfare of student-athlete experience. He intended to study other coaches in the offseason for new ideas to improve his knowledge of the game.
In his goals for next season, Boals wrote the desire to keep Ohio State in the top-25 nationally in team defense as well as top-4 in the Big Ten. Matta outlined the same goals for him in his review of Boals, while also touching on recruiting and the importance of focusing on championship-level expectations every day.
Matta also took time to note Boals' work with the team's defensive switch midway through the season.
Greg Paulus: Assistant Coach
Paulus' ascension on Matta's staff has been swift, as he started as a video coordinator in 2011 before earning a promotion to assistant coach in 2013. He's still young enough to directly relate to college-age players, something Matta's noted multiple times the past few seasons.
Paulus received rave reviews from his boss for his performance in 2014-15. Matta noted his desire to learn the game and his tireless effort in his review, completed June 28.
Paulus was the lone assistant to fill all five available lines with respect to his goals for the 2015-16 season. Keeping the student-athletes in line on and off the court and in the classroom, recruiting top players at the guard position, pursuing championships, teaching the fundamentals to players and a continual study of the game and NCAA policies were listed as his goals.
Paulus did not list any challenges he faced this past season, but noted the development of Russell into an All-American and No. 2 NBA Draft pick among the highlights from the season, just like the other coaches did.
The full reviews are below.