One Year Removed From Coaching, Thad Matta is Enjoying Life Away From The Sideline

By James Grega on June 5, 2018 at 8:35 am
Thad Matta

One year ago today, Thad Matta's reign as Ohio State's head basketball coach came to an end.

After 365 days away from the sideline, however, the winningest coach in program history seems to be doing just fine without basketball. 

Matta returned to Columbus on Monday to accept the Agonis Club Person of the Year award, and looked rejuvenated as he met with a handful of Columbus media members before giving a speech in front of around 50 club members. 

So what has Matta been up to in the last year since leaving Columbus? 

"Just trying to be cool and put food on the table every day, man," Matta, sporting a thin gray beard, said Monday.

After a year removed from the coaching profession, Matta said he has spent extended time with his family, sending his daughter off to prom and spending time in Florida. 

Amongst the handful of reasons for Matta's departure on this day last year was his health, which had visibly deteriorated. Matta's well-documented back problems were discussed at length during his exit press conference. One year later, however, the former Buckeye head coach said he feels the best he has felt physically in more than a decade. 

"I feel great. I probably haven't felt like this in 10 years. What I found is stress is real. There is no question about that. It's a legit disease. In retirement, you sleep until you're tired of sleeping. You wake up, start your day and away you go," Matta said. "Being able to sleep through the night and wake up in a good mood. I haven't woke up in a good mood in 18 years. That's just what coaching is, you can't be happy.

"You're still on edge. I have come to the conclusion that a successful coach can't be happy," he added. "You've got to be mad about something. To remove yourself from that, whew. It feels good."

While he had the year off, Matta said he enjoyed simply taking in a basketball game, not having to deal with the stress of preparing for the action. He went as far as to say he watched plenty of games during the last year, but never sat through an entire contest during his year off. 

Instead, Matta said he enjoyed doing what most men do when they get the remote control in their hand. 

"The thing I enjoyed the most is you could watch a basketball game and when you're coaching, your mind is constantly saying, 'If we play them, who is going to guard who? What actions are we going to run?' It was so nice just to sit back and watch a basketball game," he said. "I don't think I watched any game in its entirety. I would just flip around and go to bed."

“I feel great. I probably haven't felt like this in 10 years.”– Matta on his health.

When it came to Ohio State, Matta said he watched some games, but didn't catch the Buckeyes much on television. He said he was happy to see the senior class of Keita Bates-Diop, Jae'Sean Tate and Kam Williams simply have success on the floor again. 

"It was like the pressure was off. You just sort of kick back and watch. I didn't see Ohio State a ton this year," he said. "I had a lot of stuff going on. I was just happy to see them winning.

"I wanted to be removed," Matta continued when asked about his interactions with the likes of Bates-Diop, Tate and Williams. "Strictly from the standpoint of, this was their last go-round and they have a new coach, a new voice and I really didn't want to be in their ears. I wanted them to be thinking about one thing and that was playing basketball."

Even before Matta hit the one-year mark of his hiatus from coaching, he was involved in multiple head coaching searches. His name emerged for openings at Ole Miss, Georgia and Pittsburgh, but ultimately Matta stayed without a job. 

He said that if he does return to coaching, it will have to be the right fit for not only him, but for his family as well. 

"The situations I was involved with this spring just weren't right. The time wasn't right for me, I didn't think, from where my family is," Matta said. "For the most part, if the right thing would come along, maybe I would look at it, but we will see what the future holds."

While Matta has stayed relatively detached from the college basketball world, he still hears from coaches that remain in the profession. After winning more than 400 games in his head coaching career, his opinion appears to be valued among some of the top coaches in the game. 

He didn't name any coaches, but said he would routinely hear from colleagues in the profession who would describe certain situations to him that sounded all too familiar to Matta, giving him a good laugh every now and then. 

"I was laughing my ass off. I became the guy that coaches would call from 11 to 1 in the morning after a game," Matta said. "They would say, 'You're not going to believe what happened,' and I would say, 'No, I lived that too.' It felt good to be removed from it to be honest with you. I stayed very connected in terms of a lot of different coaches I talk to."

When his coaching career came to a halt last year, Matta said he was cleaning out his home office when he came across a number of awards and honors he had collected over the years. This prompted a call to his wife, as the coach began to reflect on his career. 

"When I was moving, I was cleaning my office out of my house. I called my wife one night and I said, 'You know, I accomplished a lot as a coach. I had no idea.' I am reflective a little bit," he said. "When you're coaching, you always remember the losses and you don't remember the wins. When you get out, you don't remember the losses, you remember the wins. From that side of things it's good, but not once did I say, 'Man I wish I was back there.'"

Matta experienced plenty of wins in his career, yet his year away from basketball might have been his best victory yet. 

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