Thad Matta is gone now, and with him ends an era in Columbus. Say what you will about his tenure at Ohio State (and we have); Matta was a good coach and good man who built the Buckeye hoops program into one to be reckoned with.
But the last two seasons were abysmal, especially by the standards of a program that looked to be so ascendant just a few short years ago. Combine that uninspired on-court performance with a host of off-court issues—more transfers than a program can absorb, a shadowy exit by a star player, Matta’s own health problems—and you have a recipe for a badly-needed shakeup.
So where should Ohio State turn, now that Matta, the former Hoopeston Cornjerkers standout, is gone? To the only name that should realistically top the list: 2016 Big Ten Coach of the Year Tom Crean.
Strictly from a numbers standpoint, a move from Matta to Crean looks to be a lateral move at best. In two fewer years on Earth, Matta has amassed 83 more head coaching wins than Crean (439 to 356) and a superior win percentage to boot (.740 to .606). But those stats obscure the fact that Crean was at Marquette during the Big East’s early-aughts salad days, fighting against the likes of Carmelo Anthony’s Syracuse team, while Matta was trouncing mid-majors at Xavier. This is to take nothing away from Matta, who moved to Columbus to helm the Buckeyes in 2004; it’s just a reminder not to underestimate the man who’s spawned a million memes.
Good to see Tom Crean is back for another go at it pic.twitter.com/MQ7ylJGbyk— Big Cat (@BarstoolBigCat) November 23, 2015
But Crean is more than just a face that makes for great reaction shots. He’s a talented recruiter with a history of turning a program around after a terrible season, like he did at Indiana in 2011-2012 (27 wins following a 12-win season). In the last seven years, Crean has reeled in NBA-caliber players like Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller, recorded watershed moments at the storied Hoosier program (like knocking off the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the same season), and won the Big Ten Coach of the Year award.
There are certainly flaws to be ironed out—not even an enlightened Creanaissance thinker would confuse the former Hoosier head man for Roy Williams. But the 2017 college basketball landscape is hardly ripe with quality coaches for the picking; short of a miracle wrought by Twitter’s @trillballins, Brad Stevens isn’t walking through that door. Jeff Boals is gone, Archie Miller is locked into Crean’s old job, and Mick Cronin just doesn’t have Crean’s chops. No move the Buckeyes could make would be smarter than the most obvious one: hire Tom Crean.
Thanks for everything you did for Ohio State University Men's Basketball, Thad.Posted by Land-Grant Holy Land - For Ohio State fans on Monday, June 5, 2017