Sometime next month, Thad Matta will wrap up his 12th season in Columbus, his 16th go-around as the head coach of a Division I college basketball team. Along the way, Matta, a former head coach at Butler and Xavier, has developed an impressive coaching tree. In fact, one could argue it's one of the very best in college basketball.
Before we dig into the specifics, for the sake of clarity, I will only be discussing assistants that spent at least three years with Matta, which discounts Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens and Dayton coach Archie Miller, as well as former Butler and Iowa coach Todd Lickliter.
The Star: Sean Miller
With Matta: Associate head coach, Xavier, 2002-04, Assistant coach, Miami (Ohio), 1994-95.
Background: A strong argument can be made that Miller, who coached at Miami (Ohio) with Matta under Herb Sendek, is the most successful active coach without a Final Four on his resume, as he has reached four Elite Eights and and six Sweet 16s as the head coach at Xavier (where he succeeded Matta) and Arizona.
Seemingly predestined for stardom, Miller appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson as a youth for his ball handling prowess before playing collegiately for Pittsburgh, his hometown school. While he became one of the best players (and perhaps the top 3-point shooter) in Panther history, Miller is perhaps best known for notching the assist on Jerome Lane's infamous glass-shattering slam.
At Arizona, Miller has distinguished himself as an ace recruiter, compiling (as rated by 247 Sports) the nation's third-ranked recruiting class three times (2011-12, 2014) and fourth-ranked class twice (2013-14) while notching the Pac-10/12's top-ranked class on four occasions (2011, 2013-15). Miller recently outmaneuvered Matta and Ohio State for five-star Class of 2016 combo guard Kobi Simmons.
Record vs. Matta: 1-2. Though Miller won the most recent clash between the two, a 73-58 decision in the NCAA tournament's Round of 32 last March, Matta's has driven a stake in Miller's heart twice in March, as two of the most prominent shots in Buckeye basketball history have come at the expense of Miller and his teams: Ron Lewis' 3-pointer to force overtime against Xavier in the 2007 Round of 32, and LaQuinton Ross' game-winning triple opposite Arizona in the 2013 Sweet 16.
The Frenemy: John Groce
With Matta: Assistant coach, Butler, 2000-01, Assistant coach, Xavier, 2001-04, Assistant coach, Ohio State, 2004-08.
Background: Groce was by Matta's side for eight consecutive seasons across three different stops before acquiring his first head coaching job at Ohio University in June of 2008. Groce coached at Ohio from 2008-12, advancing to two NCAA tournaments. On both occasions, Groce's double digit-seeded Bobcats pulled off upsets, knocking off No. 4 Michigan as a No. 13 seed in 2012 -- with a helping hand from former Ohio State guard Walter Offutt -- en route to a Sweet 16 appearance, and toppling No. 3 Georgetown as a No. 14 seed in 2010.
Now in fourth season at Illinois, Groce qualified for the NCAAs in his first season, but hasn't been back since, though the last two seasons have been significantly undermined by injuries. Groce, who played at Division II Taylor (Indiana) University, is also a former Sendek assistant, coaching at North Carolina State with Miller from 1996-2000.
Record vs. Matta: 1-6. Groce won the first meeting against his former mentor, but Matta has now triumphed in six consecutive contests.
The Possible Successor: Jeff Boals
With Matta: Assistant coach, Ohio State, 2009-present.
Background: The Magnolia, Ohio, native played at Ohio University from 1991-95 and presently coordinates Ohio State's defense. Before joining Matta's staff, Boals was an assistant at Ohio, Charleston (West Virginia), Marshall, Robert Morris, and Akron. If Matta were to step away tomorrow and athletic director Gene Smith preferred to replace Matta with an in-house candidate (which isn't a sure thing by any means) Boals would be the betting favorite. That is, if he doesn't get one of the zillion other jobs we've floated for him first.
The Rising Star: Greg Paulus
With Matta: Video coordinator, Ohio State, 2011-13, Assistant coach, Ohio State, 2013-present.
Background: Paulus is one of the more famous (or infamous, depending on one's allegiance) college basketball players to suit up in the second half of the last decade, as he was a three-year starter at point guard for Duke from 2006-09, leading the Blue Devils to a record of 112-28. Paulus, a high school football All-American, quarterbacked Syracuse as a graduate transfer in the fall of 2009 after leaving Duke and was an assistant basketball coach for Navy during the 2010-11 season. After Chris Jent took a job with the Sacramento Kings following the 2012-13 season, Paulus was promoted from video coordinator and now runs Ohio State's offense.
The Former Head Man: Dave Dickerson
With Matta: Assistant coach, Ohio State, 2010-11. Associate head coach, Ohio State, 2011-present.
Background: Dickerson tallied a record of 68-84 as Tulane's head coach from 2005-10. Dickerson, who played at Maryland from 1986-89, was an assistant for the Terrapins under ex-Ohio State coach Gary Williams from 1996-2005. Prior to his time coaching at Maryland, Dickerson was an assistant at Gardner-Webb, James Madison, and Radford.
The Free Agent: Alan Major
With Matta: Assistant coach, Xavier, 2001-04. Assistant coach, Ohio State, 2004-10.
Background: Out of anyone on this list, it's Major who has spent the most time with Matta, coaching alongside his former boss for a decade before being hired as Charlotte's coach prior to the 2010-11 season. Major and Charlotte parted ways last March after Major went 67-70 over four-plus seasons. Major battled health issues over his last two years with the 49ers. Major, a Purdue alum, has also been an assistant at Cal Lutheran, Pacific, and Southern Illinois.
The Enigma: Brandon Miller
With Matta: Video intern, Xavier, 2003-04. Director of basketball operations, Ohio State, 2004-06. Video director, Ohio State, 2006-07. Assistant coach, Ohio State, 2008-11.
Background: Miller gave up coaching after the 2011 season, but was only out of the game for a year. Miller replaced Stevens as Butler's headman for the 2013-14 campaign, but took a leave of absence and never returned. A former standout point guard at Butler, Miller hit the game-winning shot to defeat No. 5 seed Mississippi State in the 2003 NCAA tournament.