Sports

Thad Matta’s ‘Welcome Home’ address at Butler

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Over the past five years, Thad Matta fielded plenty of calls, interest, and offers to return to coaching.

Luckily for Butler University, none of those conversations ended with a “yes” until Bulldogs athletics director Barry Collier dialed up Matta, his former player and assistant coach, this past Friday while he was beachside in Florida.

Ultimately, the voice Matta says he couldn’t get out of the back of his head was that of his little girl.

“There was just a little jubilation in terms of, my youngest daughter Emily has been like, ‘You need to take that job, you need to take that job, you need to take that job!’” Matta said. “I think for (my daughter) Allie, she was sad she couldn’t be here, but Barbara and I, it is hard to describe the emotions that we had coming home.”

On Wednesday, Matta officially returned to his alma mater where he captained as a player from 1989 to1990 and coached from 2000 to 2001. Matta’s winning percentage of .740 currently ranks fourth among all active NCAA coaches.

Matta became emotional during his Wednesday press conference, thanking his parents and recounting the first time he visited Hinkle Fieldhouse as a recruit.

The words he uttered to his dad during that visit? “This is where I am going to go.”

Matta shared that he spoke with his former player — and outgoing Butler head coach — LaVall Jordan this past Friday before formally accepting the position.

“It is not as easy as you think, because of the relationship I have with LaVall,” Matta said. “It is funny. When I went to Indiana University last year, I told the players, ‘You guys don’t know this, but there is nobody in this world that was rooting harder for you over the course of the last four years because Archie Miller worked for me.’ I have known Archie since he was probably 10 years old, and I told Barbra, it is kind of the same thing here at Butler. I have rooted harder for Butler University and Lavall. But, by the same token, I knew Butler had to have a basketball coach. We were very, very happy.”

On Sunday, Matta held a meeting with the eight players eligible to return to Butler’s roster next season. Retaining Lithuania forward Simas Lukosius will be Matta’s first order of business following the freshman’s decision to enter the transfer portal following Jordan’s dismissal.

After stepping down from his role at Ohio State University following the 2017 season due to chronic back and foot issues, Matta said a return to coaching was never a concrete plan. Matta says that during his first season away from college basketball, he watched very little of the sport, with the exception being occasional Butler and Ohio State games.

“People would always say, ‘Coach, are going to get back in, are you going to get back in?’ I always said, ‘If I found the perfect situation, I think I would do it.’ And then I said, ‘I don’t know the perfect situation,” Matta said. “When I got the call [from Collier], I said, ‘I found the perfect situation.’”

Matta credited his year around IU men’s basketball coach Mike Woodson for reigniting his desire to coach, and sent additional kudos to IU athletics director Scott Dolson, who he called a “great friend.”

Butler (14-19, 6-14) will certainly look to the transfer portal this offseason to bolster a team that finished with its worst mark since the program’s inaugural season in Big East play.