Thad Matta was building a Hall of Fame-caliber coaching career when he was forced to step away from coaching at Ohio State in 2017 due to health issues:
>> Two Final Fours
>> Five Big Ten regular season championships
>> Four Big Ten tournament titles
>> 13 NCAA Tournament appearances in 17 seasons
>> Nine first-round NBA draft picks
>> 26 victories per season
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The health issues were caused by a back surgery in 2007, he said when he stepped down at Ohio State, resulting in a condition known as drop foot. It causes your foot to drag on the ground when you walk; Matta had to wear a brace to hold his foot in a normal position so he could stand and walk.
CBSSports.com’s Matt Norlander reported Sunday that Matta has turned down multiple coaching jobs the past two years before accepting the Butler job after talking to athletic director Barry Collier.
“I went through a year where I couldn’t walk.” Matta said in a Sporting News article from 2017. “I couldn’t take my shoes off after a game. I couldn’t take my pants off after a game. The stuff I had to go through in terms of being serviceable … but, maybe to a fault, I always fought.”
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At the time, Matta said he’d have remained the coach at Ohio State if hadn’t had the medical issues, which also effected his energy levels.
“I don’t think anybody can truly comprehend what this job, coaching, does to you,” Matta said in the Sporting News story.
Athletic director Gene Smith said in 2017 that Ohio State’s struggles in recruiting contributed to Matta’s decision to step down.
“Recruiting is a major part of it, and we weren’t winning the recruiting battles,” Smith said to USA Today. “As we started talking about it Friday, the flow of the conversation took me to the realization as I said to him, ‘This might be the time to make a leadership change,’ and he agreed.”
Ohio State was 38-29 overall in Matta’s final two seasons, including 18-18 in the Big Ten, and failed to make the NCAA tournament.