Matta’s return involves rekindling Butler’s winning ways

Indianapolis (AP) — Thad Matta’s first head coaching stint at Butler lasted one season.

This time around, he hopes to last a little longer—with a familiar script that helped Bulldogs reach unprecedented heights in the decade after his departure.

On Wednesday, more than 20 years after Matta left his alma mater, the 54-year-old former Ohio State basketball coach reintroduced the 54-year-old former Ohio State basketball coach to a fan base that has earned him three seasons as a player, six on the coaching staff. Seasons and embraced for one. , memorable season he ran the show.

It seemed that he never left.

“What I love about Butler is that Butler is old school in a new world,” Matta told the welcoming wagon crowd gathered inside Hinkle Fieldhouse. “You get what you deserve here. You have to go there and you earn it. That’s what I love about Butler University.”

Bulldogs also appreciate mata.

They like the fact that he is a proven winner with a championship pedigree who has a deep understanding of Butler’s unwavering principles. Matta said Wednesday that he coined “The Butler Way,” a day after then-coach Barry Collier accepted the Nebraska job, keeping Matta as his replacement.

“I had no idea Butler was going to walk the way he was going,” said Matta, laughing. “There’s something special about a butler boy. So when the call came, I wanted to come back and be a butler again.”

This would be a very different situation from the one inherited in 2000-01.

At the time, Bulldogs were an emerging mid-majority force. He scored a then-school-record 24 victories in Matta’s first and only season, winning the Midwestern Collegiate Conference tournament title and defeating Wake Forest for his first NCAA Tournament win since 1962.

When Butler lost to Arizona in the second round and Matta left for Xavier, many thought the Bulldogs had peaked. But as Matcha continued to win with the Musketeers and later at Ohio State, where he posted a school record of 337 of his 439 career victories, Butler’s program continued to grow.

Despite going through five coach changes and two conference changes over the next 17 seasons, the Bulldogs made 11 more NCAA Tournament appearances—a run that included back-to-back national runner-up finishes in 2010 and 2011.

Now Matta must rebuild an event that hasn’t appeared in the NCAA Tournament since 2018, although he probably would have made it into 2020 when the event was canceled due to COVID-19, and Sweet hadn’t gone to 16 in five years. , Butler is also coming off his first back-to-back losing season since 1988–90.

So Collier, now Butler’s athletic director, fired his former player LaValle Jordan last week and two days later replaced him with his former assistant. The 42-year-old was Jordan Butler’s first black basketball coach and only the second coach fired by the Bulldogs in 96 years. Collier’s predecessor Joe Saxon was second in 1989.

Collier believes Matta is uniquely qualified to help restore Butler’s winning ways.

“We looked all over the world for this kind of man and we found him on the street,” said Collier, referring to the nearby house of Matta.

Yes, Matta said, he had other head coaching offers over the past five years but none felt right. Also, questions were being raised on Matta’s health.

He agreed to leave the Buckeyes after 2016-17, over concerns that chronic illnesses related to his back surgery in 2007 affected Ohio State’s results. Matta used a long chair to endure years of practice and games, and his last season in Columbus, Ohio marked the only time he failed to win at least 20 games.

Chris Holtman left Butler and was appointed as Matta’s successor.

Meanwhile, Matta spent the next four years in retirement and joined the staff of Indiana coach Mike Woodson last spring. With his health improving, it didn’t take long for Matcha’s competitive juices to flow again.

“People always asked me if I would come back and I always said if I found the right position I would,” he said. “I didn’t know what the exact situation was.”

Two days after Jordan’s firing, Collier proposed and Matta did not hesitate to accept it.

Now comes the hard part.

While Matta hasn’t decided whether to use a chair or hire an assistant with head coaching experience in case physical ailments return, he plans to work on the transfer portal, helping players Tries to keep on campus Butler’s current roster and finish the job Collier started all those years ago.

“I have done everything you can in coaching except one – a national championship. I have played for it,” said Matta. “I say where is the target and what is the mission. The program has been to that level and we are shooting it and we are going after that.”


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