Winning basketball games, conference championships and making deep runs in the NCAA Tournament likely earns the support of a fan base, boosters and alumni — especially at a school like Ohio State.
Buckeye coach Thad Matta has certainly done that in what is now his 10th season at the helm of the men’s basketball program, and is notably the only coach in the country to lead his team to four straight Sweet Sixteens. His record is an impressive 121-27 in those four years, with each team notching at least 28 wins each season.
But how does his boss think of him?
Apparently, pretty highly.
The same goes for when Matta evaluated three assistant coaches, Jeff Boals, Dave Dickerson and Greg Paulus, according to a public records request submitted Feb. 4 by The Lantern and received Monday.
Aside from wanting Matta “to assist the department in promoting early non-conference games to strengthen interest and attendance,” OSU athletic director and recently promoted Vice President Gene Smith had nothing but good things to say about the head coach of the men’s basketball team.
Smith said Matta “continues to be one of the premier coaches in the country” and called his leadership “outstanding” in the overall comments section of the review.
The Buckeyes dominated in the non-conference portion of this season, winning all 13 games on their way to being ranked as high as No. 3 in the country. They won each non-conference game by at least 10 points, except the 64-61 decision against Notre Dame Dec. 21 at Madison Square Garden.
The weak non-conference slate might have hurt OSU down the road, as it later dropped five of seven conference games in January.
In 2012-13, OSU finished 29-8 overall, winning the Big Ten Conference Tournament and earning a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Buckeyes advanced to the Elite Eight before falling to Wichita State, 70-66. Overall, though, Smith liked the product he saw on the court.
“This past year was another remarkable performance competing in a fourth Sweet 16 in a row and advancing to the Elite 8,” Smith said in the review. “The team exceeded all public expectations.”
Matta’s base salary was $3.2 million last year, but he missed out on a $20,000 bonus and a guaranteed extra year added onto his contract because the Buckeyes failed to win at least a share of the Big Ten regular season title.
Of all four coaches, Matta’s review with Smith was the only one conducted Sept. 4, despite an athletic department requirement in the report that all completed reviews need to be turned in to Human Resources by July 1. All others were completed on that date.
Each coach’s performance — except Paulus, who was promoted from the team’s video coordinator position to assistant coach July 1 — is broken down into eight subheads: Academic Success of Program, Competitive Success of Program, Commitment to Compliance, Student-Athlete Welfare, Leadership, Communication, Budget Management and Public Relations/Donor Relations.
Smith used the categories to assess Matta’s performance, and most were marked as “strengths,” with the exception of Commitment to Compliance, Budget Management and Public Relations/Donor Relations. Matta “met performance standards” in those three areas, as noted in the report.
OSU’s head coach also dished out positive feedback to his three current assistants in Boals, Dickerson and Paulus in the individual reviews that Matta filled out for each coach.
Matta marked each of the eight subheads a strength for Dickerson, the team’s associate head coach, noting his coaching prowess as a reason for the Elite Eight run last year.
“Dave’s coaching expertise played a major role in helping our players to be prepared for success on the court,” Matta said in the review. “With his help, our team (won) the 2012-13 Big Ten Tournament Title, and reached the NCAA Elite Eight Round this year.”
Matta mentioned winning the 2013-14 Big Ten Conference Championship and reaching the NCAA Final Four as goals and areas of focus for the upcoming year. OSU is currently ranked No. 22 and sits in a tie for fourth place in the conference, 2 ½ games behind No. 16 Michigan.
Matta listed no areas that Dickerson needed to improve on overall after last season, noting that his “commitment to the quality of our program and the welfare of our student-athletes is evident in his strong coaching knowledge, and his professional behavior on and off the court.”
Boals also received high marks from Matta, but his performance only “met performance standards” in a few areas of the review. Among them are keeping tracking of student-athlete’s progress academically, implementing an appropriate conditioning program for all team members, effectively handling issues or concerns brought up by parents of the student-athletes and following institutional purchasing procedures in terms of the program’s budget.
Overall, though, Matta was pleased with Boals’ work, particularly in preparing the players defensively.
“Jeff has been a great asset to our university and our men’s basketball program. He has done a very good job recruiting high character kids who want to earn their degree,” Matta said in the review. “He has done a very good job coaching and assisting with our defensive efforts.”
In the area denoted “opportunities for improvement,” Matta noted Boals’ relationships with the players’ parents could be better.
“Continue to improve on parent relationships and continue to improve on mentoring members of our staff,” Matta said. “Needs to keep developing professionally and bringing new ideas to the staff.”
Paulus’ review is more brief than the other coaches’ because last season he was the team’s video coordinator and not an assistant coach.
Matta deemed Paulus’ performance to “exceed expectations” in four categories listed of Job Knowledge and Quality of Work, Communication and Teamwork, Personal Conduct and Management and Leadership. In three of those four sections, Matta noted that an area of focus for Paulus this year was to “assist in the transition of the video coordinator position and the responsibilities that will be given.”
Jake Diebler was named Paulus’ replacement the day his promotion was announced.
In all, it was clear each member on staff made their respective boss happy in their efforts to help the team reach the Elite Eight last season.
The team’s overall GPA was 2.82, with four players — then-senior walk-on guard Alex Rogers, then-junior guard Aaron Craft, then-sophomore forward Sam Thompson and then-freshman guard Amedeo Della Valle — being named Scholar Athletes for finishing the year with a GPA of 3.7 or above.
The No. 22 Buckeyes (22-6, 9-6) are set to travel to Penn State Thursday to take on the Nittany Lions (13-14, 4-10) at 7 p.m. Penn State defeated OSU, 71-70, in overtime Jan. 29 in Columbus.