INDIANAPOLIS – One of the first things Thad Matta looked at when he was hired last spring as Indiana’s assistant manager in men’s basketball was whether he could get a newly hired head coach and, in fact, NBA-living Mike Woodson.
After 17 years as head coach at Ohio State, Xavier and Butler and 11 more as assistant college coach, Matta knows the NCAA Code of Conduct, including the rule that allows Division I programs to go on an international trip in the summer once a day. four years. This should be an educational opportunity, but teams are allowed to practice 10 times on campus before the trip and can play up to 10 games against non-NCAA teams on the trip long before the training officially begins. It can be especially valuable for a new coach trying to get to know his team and for players trying to get to know their new coach.
Matta found out that IU had not toured abroad since Tom Crean took the Hoosiers to Montreal in 2014, so he explored options and introduced them to Woodson.
“I remember saying to him, ‘Hey, we’re going on a trip abroad,’ ‘Matta told a news conference on Wednesday after announcing his return to coach Butler. “I said, ‘I will try to get something in the Bahamas. We will fly in a professional team and play with them. ”
“It feels right”:Thad Matta returns to Butler as its head coach
More:IU hires Kaleb Banks, a modern-day progressive who is forced to restore the Hoosiers’ tradition
Woodson, who previously spent 25 years training in the NBA and had not been a part of college basketball since graduating from IU in 1980, did not even know that traveling abroad was an option.
“He said, ‘Wait a minute, can I coach my team this summer?'” Said Matta. “He was just as excited as he could be.”
The Hoosiers ended up playing two games at The Atlantis resort in the Bahamas and won two show games against the Serbian professional club BC Mega, which gave Woodson an advantage this fall. It helped IU start on its way to its first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2016.
That was actually Matt’s job at IU last year. He was paid $ 400,000 to help Woodson guide him as he learned about the college part of college basketball training. Matta purposefully stayed away from the public last year while in the position, but said taking the job and being part of college again had encouraged him to return to training after a five-year absence.
“This year, being around it but not in it, was very good for me,” said Matta. “Sitting in meetings and watching practice and learning an awful lot of Woody basketball, it got me started again.”
The job was created by IU’s athletic director Scott Dolson, who said he found out after a conversation with Woodson in New York when he approached Woodson about the job. Woodson called himself a colleague and indicated that he wanted to have a similar relationship with Dolson as he had with Glenn Grunwald who was his teammate at IU and then manager when Woodson was the New York Knicks’ head coach. Dolson realized that he could not work with Woodson on that solid basis because of his responsibilities to the rest of the league, but decided that Matta was perfect for the role.
Matta said that he attended staff meetings and attended rehearsals every day. At the meeting, staff often watched movies together, sometimes for scouting purposes, but sometimes because Woodson was looking for innovative plays and ideas, and discussed with staff if ideas he saw other teams try would work for IU. Matta was part of that debate. He was an obvious presence at the table of goal scorers in every game. However, he said he had mostly left Woodson and his assistants after work on the field.
“I did not have a lot of input on what was going on, only the nights they worked,” said the typical crook Matta and paused to see if anyone would take up what he said. “It was a joke. I know what Indiana fans are like. I was not trying to get credit there.”
Matt’s contribution was to help Woodson learn the part of the job he could not have learned from all those years in the NBA. Woodson may have had to plan a game to stop LeBron James, but he had never before had to rummage through the NCAA’s rulebook to learn about the bizarre rules about what he could do with hiring. His NBA connections were endless, but he did not have the same number of contacts for coaches who planned to stay in the college game and he had not attended a summer tour event where he could see those coaches work.
But Matta had been doing all these things for decades, so he gave them an insight.
“Woody was going to do what Woody was going to do, but only in terms of (teaching him) the college game,” said Matta. “Helping him put together staff. Helping him with job responsibilities, things like that … He didn’t know much about hiring, rules, rules.”
Woodson has admitted to being a rookie in that regard. He told a news conference ahead of IU’s first four NCAA games against Wyoming in March that he found the NCAA compliance test “difficult” and often had to be told things he was suggesting – such as recruiting newcomers on a private jet. – were not legal under NCAA rules.
“A lot of it was just the hiring, what he could and could not do,” said Matta. “Just like in an unofficial visit, we can not leave the campus. He said, “Let’s take him to dinner.” We would have to say, “No, no, we can not leave campus.”
But irritated as Woodson might have been at the rules, Matta said he was receptive to having them explained so he would not go head to head.
“He was great because he wanted to learn,” said Matta. “Some of these guys don’t want to learn. Mike wants to know everything that’s going on in the program.”
While Matta was at work, he decided to downplay his public profile. The announcement of his appointment to Woodson added to the buzz surrounding the program and attracted dozens of interview requests, including from IndyStar, but were never fulfilled and Matta did not give any interviews while working for Indiana. It was Matt’s decision.
“I never like to be in the spotlight,” said Matta. “But I know that in the situation I’m in, this comes with territory. When I went to Bloomington, I did not want to. I just wanted to be behind the scenes and do everything Indiana had to do. I did it. I do not want to be famous for any of this. The way I am. This is Mike’s plan and I hope I did something to help him succeed this year, and most importantly because I fell in love with Indiana. , did something to help the future of the program. ”
Matta said he believes IU is still in good hands. He said Dolson had become one of his best friends and that he had developed a great deal of respect for Woodson as a coach, man and leader.
“Mike is such a special boy,” said Matta. “He has one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever seen in terms of his compassion. What I walked away with is his commitment to the game of basketball. Mike Woodson loves basketball. Love the ball. I sat in these meetings and we would watch, God knows who we were watching play, just because he wanted to learn. He wanted new ideas and wanted to be innovative. That’s what I took away from me was this burning passion for the game of basketball. ”
Follow Indiana Insider Dustin Dopirak on Twitter @DustinDopirak or email him at email@example.com.