After Georgia parted ways with Mark Fox over the weekend focus turned immediately to former Ohio State coach Thad Matta as a replacement. Matta met with UGA officials on Monday but appears to have rejected their five year, $15 million offer to coach the Red and Black. The two-time Final Four coach said in a statement “I just don’t feel that I am completely ready at this point to give Greg McGarity and Georgia what they deserve.”
Leaving aside the issue of what some Georgia fans think McGarity deserves (that’s kind of low hanging fruit), it’s a little hard to know what to make of Matta’s decision to decline the offer. In light of Matta’s past health issues, issues which ultimately put an end to his super successful run with the Buckeyes, it’s possible that he looked deep into his own heart and realized he just isn’t physically prepared to take the helm of a bigtime college basketball program right now. If so, kudos to him for being honest with himself and with the powers-that-be in Athens.
It’s also possible that Matta sat down with the folks in Butts-Mehre, talked to them about what they expected and what they could offer to accomplish that in terms of resources, guarantees, etc. And that he talked to people he trusted about the job and its prospects. And after all that made a risk/reward calculation that convinced him to wait for a better opportunity.
I don’t know which it was, but I do know that at the moment $3 million a year would have put him behind only John Calipari among SEC coaches in terms of compensation (Avery Johnson makes about $2.9 million at Alabama and is likely in line for a raise with his team’s tournament bid). Even after the postseason salary bumps in April and May that’s likely top 20-25 money nationally to take over a major program with a decent roster already in place. As much as Georgia’s history of basketball mediocrity might make some coaches think twice, the fact that the administration is putting down that kind of coin for experienced coaches will turn some heads.
Where does Georgia look next? The natural suspect would be former Indiana coach Tom Crean, who would also be a big name hire, albeit without Matta’s consistent record of success.