Dec. 9, 2004
Thad Matta, Ohio State head coach
“Obviously there’s not a whole lot to say. I knew coming in there were going to be issues and problems. I am 100 percent with Ohio State in this decision. The shame is that the players had nothing to do with it. They are being penalized for a crime they didn’t commit. That is part of life. That is part of how things go.”
“Ohio State has my support in this. It is unfortunate but it is something that is hard for our guys to understand. It’s one of those things that our team will have to get through. The season is definitely not over.”
“The hardest thing for me, and for my staff, is that we fell in love with this team. They have done everything we have asked and have worked extremely hard. They are the most coachable team I have ever had. Giving them the news was tough but now we will rally and continue to compete with great intensions. We are going to be the best basketball team we can have this year every time that we step onto the court. That is not going to change.”
“It’s difficult. We knew something was going to happen, we just didn’t know what or when. The seniors – Brandon (Fuss-Cheatham), Tony (Stockman) and Matt (Marinchick) – are the ones who got hit the hardest in my opinion. Everyone is a little bit confused as 18-22 year-olds might be when they didn’t do anything wrong. But they are very mature.
“This affects the team. We will not let it affect the future of Ohio State basketball.”
Complete Transcript of Coach Matta’s Press Conference
Matta: Obviously I don’t have a whole lot to say. I will say this, I knew coming in here that there were some issues and some problems and as I told Andy (Geiger) I am behind him 100 percent. I think the shame of it is our players had nothing to do with it and they are being penalized for a crime they did not do but I think that is part of life and part of how things go. Like I said Ohio State has my support. But for our guys it is hard to understand and as a team it will be something we have to get through. The season is not over. This team has worked hard and they are the most coachable team I have been apart of and to giving them this news is very difficult. But we will rally and continue to compete with great intensity. Reporter: Knowing the implications of the sanctions how have the players handled the news?
Matta: The difficulty is in the short time that we have been here my staff and I have developed a unique love for this team. It is difficult but I know we will rebound. The hard part is for Tony (Stockman), Matt (Marinchick) and Brandon (Fuss-Cheatham) because they will not get a shot at the postseason.
Reporter: Thad were they caught off guard with the news?
Matta: No, no, I think that once again they knew something was going to happen and the team much like my staff had no idea of what it was going to be. They were a little confused as 18-20 year olds might be because they didn’t do anything. As I told them I wanted to talk to them in the locker room (after practice), and we don’t do that very often. The guys that stepped to the forefront when I was done talking were the guys I knew were our leaders.
Reporter: On the day that you were hired, Andy was very confident that he and the president were not going to do anything with the team. Somewhere along the line that changed, when did you become aware of this?
Matta: Honestly I have never heard that. I knew things could go down but I never heard Andy say that the current team wouldn’t be punished.
Reporter: Has going to the Big Ten tournament now become the incentive or this team. Knowing that you can still win a post season tournament and still win a title?
Matta: Yes it does. And that was brought up in the locker room. That would now become the “battle cry.” Knowing that we will play in that tournament in March it becomes our postseason.
Reporter: Now are you concerned that there could be more sanctions with the follow up of this investigation. How do you feel about that?
Matta: You know honestly I don’t know. I don’t think I am able to comment on that because of the legalities.
Reporter: Andy said making this announcement today was due in part to making a stand now before they have something heavier dropped on the university. Had you heard of this before?
Matta: I haven’t had anything to do with this at all.
Reporter: How about negative recruiting.
Matta: I don’t think this will have any effect on recruiting. We will tell our kids we recruit that we told you nothing would happen and it won’t.
Reporter: How can you say that when there is the possibility of future sanctions?
Matta: I was shown case studies of past programs and what they had done and what they received and I feel extremely confident that a one year ban will be all the punishment given.
Reporter: Did you ask for the one year extension on your deal or was that initiated by the university?
Matta: That was initiated by the university. It was up in the air as to how we were going to address that. Personally for me I am honored that Ohio State would do that and it shows me the support those in the upper-level have given me for the future of Ohio State basketball.
Reporter: Talk about your commitment to the program and if future sanctions are things like forfeiting postseason play.
Matta: This program has definitely become about the future. I don’t want to discard what has been done from the days of Coach Miller to the days of Coach Taylor and Coach Williams and even Coach O’Brien. I still hold true and I feel we are in a tremendous position. This is a great basketball job and I am committed to its success.
Reporter: You have one scholarship available. Do you freely go about seeking someone to fill that scholarship or is there a possibility that it could be taken away be future sanctions?
Matta: I don’t know the answer. I know that we are going to continue to recruit seniors to juniors to sophomores to freshmen, and I don’t know what else could happen to that.
Reporter: Were the players angry when you told them the news?
Matta: I don’t think angry is a correct assessment. I think more of a confused state. I want to use the right words here. It is not relieved but it was more like now we know and we don’t have to worry about what is going to happen. I think confused might be the best way to describe it. But as we were in there talking our guys re-centered and quickly began to focus on making this season a good one.
Reporter: Do you think you have a good chance to rebound from this and quickly recover and bounce back?
Matta: I think so. I have said this I think we are selling a great product. I believe in what Ohio State does for the kids, I believe in what our staff does for the kids. I believe in our system. No 1 they see themselves getting better and No. 2 they enjoy the process and to me that is what coaching is about. So I do like the direction we are headed in.
Reporter: In regards to negative recruiting will this cost you?
Matta: No because we have the ones we wanted.
Reporter: Did it cost you in anyone else you would like to recruit?
Matta: Good question. No. I mean that Bob (Baptist). If you would have told me that these are the three guys that you are going to take to campus next year I would have taken them in a heart beat. I do think that recruiting is not about this class it’s about the lower classes as well and we’ve yet to see the effects on that.
Reporter: Are you concerned that your guys, even if you win the Big Ten, would be playing for nothing since the team can’t make the NCAA tournament? Do you think there could be some let up?
Matta: I addressed that issue. I have been very fortunate in the teams I have that we had good success in March. I have never coached a season with the thought of March in mind and that was always going to be a by product. And I told them from the beginning that I will coach this team exactly the same. And I want us playing our best basketball in March. I think that if it was any other group of guys I would be a little more concerned about it, but as you look at what these guys have been through it has been an amazing six months for them and as you look at how they responded to it. I’m pleased with their response at how they attacked and that will be their drive.
Reporter: Over the past couple years when this team finishes out the season it seems they loose that killer instinct at the end of the year. Might this put a chip on their shoulders and propel them the rest of the year?
Matta: I hope so. That will be obviously up to us collectively to develop that but we will be going against some teams that are NCAA tournament teams and that will be a challenge for us to meet and see how we fare.
Matta: Ok. Thank you.