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NCAAB

Apr 04, 2022

Butler Brings Back Thad Matta

BUTLER AIMS TO RETURN TO GLORY BY BRINGING BACK THAD MATTA

The college basketball season will come to an end tonight with Kansas taking on North Carolina in the national championship game. The other 350+ Division I teams have already had their seasons come to an end and have been making moves to be more competitive next year.

Butler made perhaps the biggest splash so far when the Bulldogs announced that they were hiring Thad Matta on Sunday. Matta started his coaching career at Butler over two decades ago, and he might be just the man to return the program to prominence. The Bulldogs were never less than 125-1 to win the national championship last year and have not made the NCAA Tournament for four straight seasons.

BUTLER’S RECENT HISTORY

The Bulldogs gave LaVall Jordan five years to prove that he was the right person for the job, but Jordan struggled after going 21-14 in his first season. He did go 22-9 during the 2019-20 season and Butler would have made the NCAA Tournament if not for COVID, but he posted a losing record in three of his last four years.

That wasn’t enough for a program that was taken to new heights by Brad Stevens at the start of last decade. Stevens led Butler to consecutive appearances in the national championship game in 2010 and 2011, but the Bulldogs lost a heartbreaker to Duke as a seven-point underdogin 2010 and came out flat as a short underdog against UConn the following year. Still, the foundation had been laid, and that led to Butler moving from the Horizon League to the Atlantic 10 and then the Big East.

Current Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann proved that Butler could succeed in the Big East by taking the Bulldogs to the NCAA Tournament in all three of his seasons at the helm, and they made it to the Sweet 16 five years ago. 

WHAT CAN THAD MATTA BRING TO BUTLER?

Butler is looking for Thad Matta to have similar success, and he has plenty of experience here. Matta played for the Bulldogs from 1987 to 1990 and spent six seasons as an assistant with Butler before getting his head coaching start here during the 2000-01 campaign.

Matta led the Bulldogs to a 24-8 record and an NCAA Tournament appearance before jumping ship for Xavier. He led the Musketeers to consecutive Atlantic Ten titles and took Xavier to the Elite Eight in 2004 before taking over Ohio State.

The Buckeyes became a basketball power under Matta. They won at least 20 games for 12 straight seasons, and they nearly won the national championship in 2007 before falling to Florida as a short underdog. Ohio State had its best run at the same time as Butler with Matta leading the Buckeyes to a 65-11 record and one Final Four appearance during the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons.

Matta has been out of coaching since mutually parting ways with Ohio State at the end of the 2016-17 season. He is the most recent big name to come to the Big East as Saint Peter’s coach Shaheen Holloway is now at Seton Hall and Sean Miller returned to Xavier after being fired by Arizona.

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