Q&A: Ohio State coach Thad Matta

Thad Matta
Thad Matta

Ohio State coach Thad Matta listens to a question during a press conference at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta Sunday. Ohio State will play Florida in the Final Four basketball championship on Sunday.

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
Published: Sunday, April 1, 2007 at 6:30 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, April 1, 2007 at 6:30 p.m.

Ohio State coach Thad Matta answers questions during Sunday afternoon's news conference inside Atlanta's Georgia Dome.

Q: How does the history between Ohio State and Florida play into this game?

A: For us, we knew we were going to play a great opponent to get to this point. With the relevance from the football, honestly, means nothing, has no bearing whatsoever on this game.

I think Florida obviously is playing great basketball. They've earned the right to be in this position, and so have we. And tomorrow night, you know, we have to come out and play a great game.

I love the fact I think it says a lot about both institutions that they can be in this position.

Q: Thad, as I recall, you weren't real happy after (the Dec. 23 Florida game) with the way your team responded to Florida's run. What did you say to them after that game? What happened with them that it didn't seem to happen again?

A: The hard part after the Florida game was we broke for Christmas. I think when we came back I was showing film and saying there's 17 minutes left, score's 40-40, trying to figure out what happened at that point.

Florida went on a run. They blitzed us. They were making shots. They were getting stops. They really took the game to another level. We weren't mentally ready to get in the fight with them.

I think that it was one of those games, I think every team has one. Florida beat us. I mean, they beat us good down there. I think the thing that we've hopefully learned from it is, and you see it every game in the NCAA Tournament, is it's a game of runs, and you have to be able to withstand that mentally and physically and keep your composure.

Q: Thad, how unique is it that Florida would have three potential first-round picks to win a championship and then agree to come back? When do you think the game will see something like that again?

A: Hopefully next year (smiling).

No, I think that that is a great tribute to Billy and the program he runs. I think it's a great tribute to the kids. I've heard it, you guys have heard it. He has a special group there. And the ability for those guys to win a championship and stay committed and come back and try to win another one, I think that speaks volumes about the program that Billy's built.

And, you know, I guess about the kids, my thing for all my players is if it's right for them to do what they want to do.

Q: You have two really tough big men to defend. I was wondering if you've given thought to which one Greg Oden would guard and what you would do about the other one?

A: We're going to play all zone (smiling).

No, I think that honestly, I think that we're going to have to guard by committee with those guys. I'll be perfectly honest with you. At this point today we haven't decided on matchups with who we're going to guard.

I think the big thing for us is sitting down. Still it's been such a quick turnaround, more for our players because we want to give them rest. We've shown a lot of film, but we haven't made a lot of decisions. As we get on the court, I think we'll continue to put those in. In Game 1, he guarded Al. Ivan guarded Noah. There were times where we were switched up. Those guys are so interchangeable that I think it will probably be about a 50/50 deal throughout the course of the game.

Q: Noah obviously gets a lot of publicity. What are your thoughts on Al Horford? Where does he rank as far as big men in the country with your big men, some of his strengths?

A: I think, number one, I recruited Al so hard three years ago. To see his transformation as a player is truly incredible. I think that he is, if not, one of the best power forwards in the country. His ability to score down low, uses both hands, he can rebound, he can pass, bust out dribbles, great defender. I think he is a special talent, I really do.

Q. Having reached this point of the tournament, do you have a special appreciation for what Florida is trying to accomplish, winning two in a row? Generally in college basketball, would it be tougher for a team to go undefeated, which hasn't happened since 76, or to win back-to-back championships?

A: I have a great appreciation for what Florida's done. It's funny, I was thinking this morning just the appreciation I have for the coaches and the teams that have been here repeatedly. It's hard.

For these guys to go through the season the way that they have and be back in this game I think is a tremendous credit to Billy, his staff and the players.

I think that they had a little bit of what we had going this year. I think people early on knew we had a lot of question marks. I think they were trying to set us up to fail with, This team should be in the Final Four, this team... I'm looking, saying, my center doesn't have a right hand and they're telling us we're going to be in the Final Four.

But I do have a great appreciation because I do know how hard it is. I don't want to say the luck. I don't think that it's luck. But a lot of things have to happen for you to get to this point.

So with the job that they've done to be here because, you know, as I've told our guys, tomorrow night may be the first time it's not that way, or maybe last night. I've never coached a team where you're supposed to win every game, and what that does, the pressure that puts on you, and Florida has had that all year long, is tough.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top