Friday, May 04, 2001
Matta's first-year goal: Sweet 16
New coach aims to take XU higher
By Michael Perry
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Barbara Matta was getting dressed Thursday morning and preparing to put on a red and black outfit. Those, of course, are the University of Cincinnati's colors.
This could be the quickest coaching tenure ever, her husband, Thad, told her.
Barbara Matta made a quick change from black and red to blue for her husband's introduction at Xavier Thursday.
(Ernest Coleman photos)
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Thad Michael Matta became the 15th men's basketball coach in Xavier history Thursday, capping an efficient search to replace Skip Prosser, who resigned April 24 to become coach at Wake Forest.
It's amazing how your outlook changes in a little more than a week, Xavier athletic director Mike Bobinski said. These last 10 days have been at times exhausting, but at times also really energizing, because you see what the possibilities are, you see the great opportunities we have.
Matta, who accepted the job Wednesday after visiting XU's campus, was announced at a news conference in front of a crowd of a couple hundred that included boosters, students, media and university officials.
His wife, two daughters (Ali, 2, and Emily, 5 months), parents, in-laws, sister-in-law and niece were on hand.
Matta speaks to the large gathering.
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Matta, 33, is the ninth-youngest Division I head coach in the country and the youngest in XU history. He has been a head coach for one year, leading Butler to a 24-8 record and into the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Terms of his contract were not disclosed. One source said it is for longer than five years.
Bobinski would say only, We're both making a big commitment to each other.
Our goal first and foremost was to find a person of character and integrity,' Bobinski said. Secondarily, we wanted someone who might win us a basketball game now and then. We found a bunch of people who fit that profile really well. As the process went forward ... it became apparent to me that we had an opportunity ... to truly catch a rising star. You don't get that opportunity very often.
I believe this gentlemen, over time, will take our program places that we have not been. To me, that's saying an awful lot.
Matta first met with the Xavier players at 2 p.m. for about 45 minutes. He said he told them: I can guarantee you one thing: We will be the hardest-playing team in the country next year. When people look for a word to describe Xavier basketball, it would be "toughness.'
Matta is surrounded by family, including his father Jim.
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First impressions were pretty good, sophomore guard David Young said. He seemed like a straightforward guy. He seemed like he's got a backbone; he's going to make you work hard, and he's ready to go to work. He said his goal is to get to the Sweet 16 (next season). He said we've got the talent to do that.
He said all the right things, sophomore Lionel Chalmers said. He's coming in with the same way of doing things as Coach Prosser, basically. He wants to win, just like we do. Hopefully, he'll be able to adjust to us, and we'll be able to adjust to him.
Matta began one-on-one meetings with players at 6 p.m. Thursday and expected to continue into today.
During Thursday's news conference, Matta said he:
Believes Xavier is the best job in the Atlantic 10;
Women's coach Melanie Balcomb welcomes Matta.
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Wants to recruit players who want to excel in life;
Wants the Musketeers to have an attacking mentality offensively.
I know when you have a David West, you've got to make sure the right people are getting touches down the court, Matta said. I want to go (fast), but at the same token, it's important ... to know the difference between a good shot and a quick shot.
In following Prosser and Pete Gillen, Matta is succeeding the two winningest basketball coaches in school history who have a combined record of 350-140 (.714).
The Musketeers, who finished 21-8 this past season, return four of their top six scorers.
My greatest asset would be simply a burning desire to be successful, Matta said. Success is getting the most out of the kids.
Matta was 1-6 against the Musketeers as a Butler play er and 0-4 as a full-time assistant coach, with two losses at Miami and two at Butler.
Ironically, his career-high scoring effort as a player (21 points) came against Xavier at the Cincinnati Gardens on March 2, 1989.
One of the Butler players said to Matta on Wednesday night: Coach, you always told me if we cut you open, you'd bleed blue.
Guess what, Matta replied. I still do.
It's just Xavier blue.
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