ATHENS — Georgia has made clear its interest in making Thad Matta its next basketball coach. And now the decision is in Matta’s court.
Matta, 50, left Athens on Monday night holding an offer from the Bulldogs. Persons familiar with those negotiations believe the former Ohio State coach is seriously considering it and an announcement could come as early as Tuesday.
Matta would replace Mark Fox, who was fired Saturday after nine years at Georgia. Fox left as the third-winningest coach in school history but his teams made only two NCAA Tournament appearances and didn’t win any tournament games. Georgia owes Fox a buyout of $1.2 million.
Every indication is that Matta was Georgia’s first choice. He interviewed on campus Monday, touring Stegeman Coliseum and other facilities. Immediately after he left, someone familiar with the search relayed that negotiations had begun with Matta.
Matta took a buyout from Ohio State that was around $9 million, and is owed $100,000 per month through June 2020, plus medical benefits. But that would be mitigated by whatever he is paid by UGA. A clause in his contract also required him to pursue other coaching or TV opportunities to keep his buyout.
Matta is a native of Illinois who played his college ball at Butler from 1987-90 and has spent the vast majority of his career in the Midwest. He began his career as an assistant at Indiana State, then had stints at Butler, Miami (Ohio) and Western Carolina, before being elevated from assistant to head coach at Butler in 2000.
Butler reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Matta’s one year with the program. He was then hired at Xavier, where he went to the NCAA Tournament and won at least a game in each of his three seasons, including a run to the Elite Eight in 2004. He was then hired by Ohio State.
Under Matta, the Buckeyes made two Final Four trips, in 2007 and 2012, reaching the National Championship Game in 2007. Ohio State made the NCAA Tournament in nine of his 13 seasons and won nine Big Ten titles.
But the program slipped his final two seasons, not reaching the NCAA Tournament and going 17-15 with not even an NIT trip in his final season. Matta then stepped down under pressure.