Thad Matta Throws Grenade at Tom Crean and IU Basketball

by Kent Sterling

Last night, when Ohio State basketball coach Thad Matta told the assembled media after his Buckeyes thoroughly outplayed Indiana in their 82-61 game that advice from former IU coach Bob Knight helped beat the Hoosiers, he wan’t just sharing an anecdote.  Matta was firing a scud missile right past Tom Crean’s ear.

Knight is still an icon in Indiana, and much of the discontent with Crean’s performance as the third replacement for the red-sweatered volcano is not just about Crean’s three Hoosier teams combining to win eight total Big Ten games, but about Crean not being Knight.

Matta knows that, and might have been a little resentful of Crean calling him out for his halftime conference with the three officials working the game, or maybe Matta wants to continue to reinforce the image in the heads of Indiana high school recruits that Ohio State wins championships with Indiana kids while IU struggles to rebuild.  Maybe it was something else, but Matta’s charming anecdote was driven by a motivation more nefarious than a quaint little story about an old coach helping his alma mater.

According to Matta, ”I reached out to the master.  He gave me this defensive drill,” Matta said. “Our players hate it, but I think it made us play a lot better.”

“I’ve helped facilitate a few things for him, and he’s (reciprocated). But he’s like, ‘Don’t you tell anybody that I’m doing this,’” Matta said.

“He wants us to do well. It’s unbelievable. I love talking to him because, No.1, you get so much basketball-wise. And then you get a lesson in history. And then you laugh your ass off because he’s one of the funniest human beings I’ve ever talked to.”

Point guard Aaron Craft later revealed that it was the simple drill of having four defend five – hardly an amazing new device that Knight might have bestowed upon Matta.

So there it is.  Knight is helping Ohio State beat Indiana.  And Matta would like everyone in Indiana to know that.  He and Knight are buddies, while Crean can’t get him on the phone, and athletic director Fred Glass can’t get Knight to come back – even to accept his place in the Indiana Athletics Hall of Fame.

As if putting former Indiana high school standout, freshman Deshawn Thomas, in a position to score nine more points (22) than he tallied over the past seven games combined wasn’t enough, Matta had to invoke the name of the coach many Indiana fans will always pine for, and the man whose refusal to let bygones be bygones fuels the rage of many basketball fans in Indiana.

No doubt, Matta believes himself to be a clever man – a strategist of the first order, and a man not to be trifled with.  He’s actually the coach of the best team in the country, and a guy who doesn’t need to concern himself with silliness like this.  Ohio State has a chance to win the Big Ten regular season title, the Big Ten Tournament, and the take a trip to Houston for the Final Four.

If I’m Tom Crean, I’m thrilled that Matta is so threatened by the work being done to build the next four recruiting classes that he needs to showcase Thomas, and then play the Knight card as though those two are great friends.

This isn’t the first time these two coaches have engaged in back-channel squabbles.  Matta has engaged in some very negative recruiting against Indiana, and Crean has called him out – although not by name.

A 3-13 Big Ten team is rarely treated with this kind of smiling rancor by a team that has a chance to win a national championship, and that should be all the confirmation Crean or those who closely follow IU hoops should need that Indiana is on the way back.

The proof will be in the pudding as the next four classes of recruits report to Cook Hall, but Matta’s gamesmanship is a signal that Crean is on the right track.

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6 Responses to Thad Matta Throws Grenade at Tom Crean and IU Basketball
  1. Jason
    March 6, 2011 | 10:26 pm

    Indiana never beat Coop three years in a row, in fact IU hasn’t won 3 straight against the Buckeyes for over 100 years. Good try though.

  2. Brownie
    December 1, 2011 | 2:06 pm

    You must be kidding. Knight would have won 2 national championships with Matta’s teams – probably could have done it with Matta’s players that come off the bench. Matta is a good coach but I can say without hesitation or equivocation that Knight is hands down a thousand times more talented than Matta in terms of coaching abilities. Knight did not have to recruit the top players in the land to win…there’s the difference. Matta will do well but he can not do it without the right talent. IU grad (1981) and will always have the upmost respect for Coach Knight regardless of where is allegiance is today.

  3. Cold Dish
    December 5, 2012 | 10:57 am

    All the OSU lovers here will be picking crow out of their teeth for quite some time. Ah Hah Hah hah!!!!!!!!

    • Weezy75
      March 14, 2013 | 3:25 am

      Yes where are all of you OSU jackasses now!! OUTRIGHT BIGTEN CHAMPS!!! Sporting news national player of the yr, two 1st team all bigten, bigten defensive player of the yr, two top 10 NBA draft pics!! I’d say Tom Crean has done a WONDERFUL job in 5 seasons. Thad who????? Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah

  4. Moyeswatsboozer
    March 14, 2013 | 8:30 am

    Ha………this thread has been enjoyable. How is your ignorance for the game and constantly calling out Crean for not being able to coach or develop players treating you now? We’ll send you a post card from Atlanta.

  5. David Bateman
    March 14, 2013 | 9:24 am

    Hey Ricky Beercan, Thad Matta couldn’t even carry Matt Painter’s jockstrap. Those kids that Matta gets from Indiana couldn’t hack it, playing for IU. Oh, and by the way, I would call you a c***sucker, but I heard you were trying to quit.

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