Don’t Encourage Thad Matta to Make a Premature Return

Thad Matta had a good run at Ohio State, let him be.

Thad Matta left Ohio State because he was encountering difficulties with his health.  Matta was simply unable to perform his job due to his ailments and Ohio State wisely picked up Chris Holtmann from Butler.  Matta is currently focusing on his health issues, which will be detailed a bit and yet people want him to be the next Head Coach at Georgia?  As in hired next month.  Why?

This what Thad Matta is going through

Matta has experienced chronic ailments that resulted from a botched back surgery just over 10 years ago.  Matta’s final years were done while he was suffering.  One of the ailments he was dealing with was “foot drop” , which made it difficult for him to walk or stand.  It also opened up the door to negative recruiting since he was wearing a brace.

A bit more about “foot drop”…

  • It’s not a disease, it’s a neurological, muscular or anatomical problem
  • There’s difficulty lifting the front part of the foot.
  • The front part of the foot may drag while walking.
  • There are some cases where the skin on top of the front of the foot and toes feel numb.
  • It’s sometimes temporary, but there are other cases where it is permanent.
  • It’s caused by a nerve injury or a muscle, nerve, brain or spinal cord disorder.
  • Treatment may include:  Braces, physical therapy, nerve stimulation and surgery.

Now, foot drop is an ailment, one of the symptoms of what Matta is currently suffering.  Matta was experiencing back pain as well and he required a special barstool and chair.

Matta could not take off his pants or remove his shoes after a game.  That’s the condition he was in.

There were no secrets about Matta’s back issues and they happened to an endurance athlete who was in very good shape.  Matta underwent a pair of surgical procedures during the Summer of 2007.

  1. Surgery #1:  June 16, 2007, he had surgery to repair a bulging disk.
  2. Surgery #2:  August 1, 2007, he had to remove a portion of vertebra in his lower back.

Back on October 21, 2007 this was published:

“It bothers him a little bit because he used to get out and do drills with us and run up and down the court every once in a while. Now he has that little limp in his leg.”

“I’m not as involved in the workouts physically as I’ve been in the past,” he said, before referring to his assistants, “which is bad for the coaches because I now tell them to go in and show them how to play post defense — when guys used to throw me into the basket support.”

“Those days are over for me.”

Matta has been dealing with these issues for a while and they have apparently snowballed to the point where he had to walk away.  He did on June 5, 2017.

If Matta Needed a Sabbatical, the option would have been on the table.

College Athletics programs do not just replace their Head Coaches in June.  It does not happen, the changes take place in March and April.  To make the replacement in June speaks to the realization that this was not going to be resolved by a simple year-long leave of absence.  This is going to require more time or he needed to walk away from the profession that he loves altogether.

Matta is now retired and not focusing on going back to the grind of College Basketball.  He’s been away for eight months and he has been addressing his worsening condition for over 10 years.

He’s Not Ready and May Never Be Ready to Return

An ailing Thad Matta is not a better alternative than Mark Fox.  In fact, it’s just cruel to Matta (as the time table was clearly longer than a year or was too indefinite to grant a sabbatical/leave of absence) and a completely irrational position toward Mark Fox.  Matta needs to take as much time to finding a way so that he can simply put his shoes on or walk without a limp or drag.  This is not something that gets resolved within a year.  Matta seemed resigned to the fact that this is a difficulty he’s going to cope with for the rest of his life back in 2007 and now he takes it on every day.

Imagine Matta having to answer non-stop questions about how he’s not dying and how the negative effects of a botched surgical procedure to a 15-16 year old and his parents.  Is Matta ready to get back to doing that again?  Matta’s concerns are not financial and it was brave for him to walk away from coaching, but he could not be an effective coach in his condition back in June and to hire him in March would be asking far too much.

Matta’s not ready and when he is, he’ll let everyone know just like he let people know about his difficulties over the past ten years.  Right now, just leave Thad Matta alone.