It's become a familiar scene for media members like myself this year. Thad Matta Tuesday came out for his interview session, drenched in sweat, with a towel over his shoulders. As has been the case most of the year, Matta gets in a workout before meeting with the media. He's avid about staying healthy--and why not. Health questions have followed him for nearly a decade.
Matta has dealt with serious back issues and a drop foot condition ever since a back surgery went wrong nine years ago. He has coached through it but with the on-court performance of the Buckeyes declining to the point that the Buckeyes likely--are headed for a second straight season without an NCAA tournament berth--health rumors have picked up.
Monday night, Pat Forde, a well respected reporter with Yahoo Sports, posted an article citing sources that Matta's job at Ohio State "is not going to open this year." But the story had nothing to do with Matta's job performance--but rather--his health.
"Back issues have plagued the 49-year-old for years, and the combination of physical discomfort and declining returns led to speculation that he may be ready to walk away," Forde reported. "However, a well-connected industry insider said flatly Monday night that the Ohio State job “is not going to open.”"
Matta was asked about the report at his pre-Big 10 Tournament press conference Tuesday.
"I'd like to know who said it," Matta said of the Yahoo report. "Or where did it come from I guess would be my question. I'll be honest, I feel really good."
But it's not just reports in the media that question whether it's Matta's health that will jeopardize his longevity at Ohio State. Matta said opposing schools have used his back and foot issues against him in recruiting and have exaggerated Matta's condition.
"Somebody told a recruit I was dying...Not that my foot didn't lift, but that I was going to die," Matta said. "It's a tough business I'm in here."
Ohio State Director of Athletics Gene Smith has not commented on Matta's job status, but there are no indications right now that a change is forthcoming whether it be because of the sub-par Buckeye season or Matta's health. Matta was asked if he'd like Ohio State to put out a statement, clarifying his job status.
"That's on them. If they want to do it, they can do it. I'm just going to D.C. (for the Big Ten Tournament) and see what the heck happens."
To watch Coach Matta's press conference and his comments on the team and his health, click the link here.