ATHENS — Thad Matta has said no to Georgia.
That’s according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, who tweeted the information as he received it from Matta Wednesday. Neither Matta nor his agent have returned numerous calls and messages left by DawgNation reporters.
Georgia offered Matta a five-year contract worth at least $16 million, or $3.2 million per season, according to persons familiar with the negotiations. Former coach Mark Fox was making $2 million a year.
Matta told Goodman he just wasn’t ready to come back to work just yet.
“It was the most difficult decision because Georgia is a tremendous opportunity for a coach to build a great program,” Matta told Goodman. “Unfortunately, I just don’t feel that I am completely ready at this point to give Greg McGarity and Georgia what they deserve.”
Matta, 50, was fired by Ohio State in 2017 after 13 seasons as its coach. He has battled chronic back problems since 2007, and they began to affect his ability to recruit and coach with the Buckeyes. Ohio State finished 17-15 and missed postseason play in Matta’s final season, but went to the NCAA tournament nine times in 10 seasons and played in the Final Four twice before that.
It’s not known whether Matta is considering offers from other schools. Ole Miss, Pitt and Louisville reportedly have contacted Matta about their coaching vacancies.
Matta was clearly the Bulldogs’ first choice to replace Mark Fox. Fox was fired Saturday after nine season as men’s basketball coach. Georgia missed the NCAA tournament for the seventh time in his tenure this season.
Matta came to Athens to meet with McGarity and Georgia officials on Monday. He returned to his home in Indianapolis Monday night and returned with his wife Barbara at lunchtime on Tuesday. The couple left Athens’ Ben Epps Airport via UGA’s private plane at 8 p.m. Tuesday night holding Georgia’s offer.
Matta informed McGarity of his decision Wednesday morning. The school was prepared to announce Matta as head coach.
Matta checked all the boxes for what Gerogia was looking for in a basketball. The Illinois native had taken three teams to the NCAA tournament a total of 13 times, more than the Bulldogs have in program history.
On top of that, his teams usually made noise once they were there. His Ohio State teams reached the Final Four twice, losing in the finals one time. Including stints at Xavier and Butler, he also reached the Elite Eight two other times and the Sweet 16 four times. He lost in the first round of the tournament just twice and won the NIT championship in one of just three years his teams missed the “Big Dance.”