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Men’s basketball: Gene Smith voices support for Thad Matta

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OSU coach Thad Matta signals to the official that a foul should have been called in a game against Purdue on Jan. 5 at the Schottenstein Center. Courtesy of Tino Bovenzi

The speculation on Ohio State men’s basketball coach Thad Matta’s job safety has been rampant for much of the past two seasons, only amplified with this season’s 17-14 record and 11th-place finish in the Big Ten.

The Department of Athletics has offered no clarity amid the speculation, until Wednesday.

Ohio State Athletics Director and Senior Vice President Gene Smith cleared the air in an official statement, voicing his confidence in Matta’s ability to return the program to national prominence.

“While we are not currently where we aspire to be with our performance on the court, Thad understands better than anyone that component has to improve,” Smith said in a statement. “I am confident in his leadership to return the program to the winning ways that we have all enjoyed during his 13-year tenure.”

Smith’s statement comes after Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports reported Monday night that Matta would return to the program despite concerns about the coach’s health. Matta fielded questions on Tuesday about the report, his general well-being and the university’s lack of public support for him.

Matta said that he didn’t care whether the athletic department publically supported him or not, but affirmed that his health would not affect him enough to step down from his his post.

In the statement, Smith said that he and Matta had a discussion about the future of the program, and Smith mentioned Matta’s 337-122 all-time record, five Big Ten titles and nine NCAA Tournament appearances as reasons to retain Matta as head coach.

Earlier this season, Matta said that his travel for recruiting is indicative of his commitment to the future of the program. The Buckeyes currently have two players signed for the 2017 recruiting class, and three verbally committed in the 2018 class.

Matta’s current contract runs through the 2018-19 season.

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