Georgia is at least giving the appearance that it is aiming high in its search for a college basketball coach. Thad Matta and Tom Crean, two longtime and proven coaches currently out of work, have been named as candidates, and Matta was scheduled to interview on Monday, according to Seth Emerson and Chip Towers of Dawgnation.com.
Just one question: Are we certain Matta is interested in the Georgia job?
Hang with me here. The former Ohio State and Xavier coach was let go by the Buckeyes last June amid health issues — mostly stemming from a bad back — and following a 17-15 season. He recently interviewed for the Ole Miss job, but soon after, it was reported that he no longer was a candidate. He also is a possible candidate at Pitt.
But consider Matta’s buyout at Ohio State. It was just over $9 million — $9,001,096.86, to be exact, according to The Columbus Dispatch. That was broken down as a $4.3 million payment in December, followed by $100,000 monthly payments through June 2020, plus medical benefits.
So Matta, obviously, doesn’t have to take a job. Here is where it gets interesting.
According to section 5.2a of Matta’s contract, via the Dispatch, “Coach is required to mitigate Ohio State’s obligations by making reasonable and diligent efforts to obtain a comparable employment position as soon as practicable.”
Let me translate: Matta is contractually obligated to pursue other jobs, whether in coaching or broadcasting, to keep the buyout active. If Matta takes another job, Ohio State would be off the hook for future monthly payments and medical benefits. The university would be able to recoup some other money already paid.
So, can we be certain Matta is really interested in the Georgia job until, and if, he is hired? At the least, he can submit a list of high demands — his own salary, staff compensation, support staff, other resources — that the Georgia basketball job has never commanded before, knowing it may be rejected.
Examples of “comparable employment” would be an assistant or head coaching job in the NBA or a program major basketball conference.
Matta would be an impressive hire for Georgia. The question is whether Matta really wants the job. We’ll know soon enough.