Saturday, December 10, 2011

Thad Matta to Bill Self: ‘Merry Christmas’

Ohio State coach jokes with counterpart before game after deciding to sit out Jared Sullinger

Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger makes his way to the court in street clothes prior to tipoff against Kansas on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger makes his way to the court in street clothes prior to tipoff against Kansas on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse.


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Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KU coach Bill Self

Kansas coach Bill Self talks to reporters following the Jayhawks' 78-67 victory over Ohio State on Dec. 10, 2011.

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KU vs. Ohio State

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Kansas defeated Ohio State, 78-67 on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Although the big day is still two weeks away, Ohio State basketball coach Thad Matta thought he was offering Bill Self, his Kansas University counterpart, glad holiday tidings prior to Saturday’s showdown in Allen Fieldhouse.

Before the game, OSU officials announced the Buckeyes would play without sophomore All-America candidate Jared Sullinger, who entered averaging 19.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per contest.

Matta delivered the news with a metaphorical shiny ribbon.

“As I told coach Self when we shook hands before the game, I said, ‘Merry Christmas. Early,’” Matta said after second-ranked OSU’s eventual 78-67 loss to No. 13 KU. “(Sullinger) was trying as hard as he could to convince us (to let him play). But I’m looking out for my players’ best interest, and I’m looking out for our program’s best interest.”

Matta said Sullinger would have played if Saturday’s match-up had been an NCAA Tournament game. It wasn’t. So he didn’t. And Matta was fine with that.

“I got a call from a writer, who asked me, ‘How can you not play him in the biggest game of the year?’” Matta said. “I don’t think that way. This is one game of 40 we’re gonna play.”

With Sullinger out of OSU’s lineup, the Jayhawks were able to do a lot of things they might not have had the big man from Columbus, Ohio, been patrolling the paint. KU outrebounded OSU, 31-30, and routinely found ways to get to the rim off the dribble. That opened up the outside, where the Jayhawks knocked down nine of 17 three-point attempts.

“It’s a tremendous change (without him),” senior guard William Buford said of playing without Sullinger. “He’s the best big man in the country, maybe the best player in the country. When you’re missing out on that, you’re going to have difficulties and have to make some adjustments.”

Ohio State missed more than Sullinger’s statistics Saturday. Matta said Sullinger often had been the player who gathered the team together when times were tough. Although he was pleased by the fire and fight he saw in his other players against Kansas, Matta said the Buckeyes were not the same team without their biggest presence.

“Jared’s a winner,” Matta said. “He wins. Thus far in his career, he’s lost three games, four now, and that’s rubbed off on some of our guys.”

Matta compared his team without Sullinger to the Jayhawks without their own All-America candidate.

“It’d be very similar if they played without (Thomas) Robinson today,” Matta said. “In a lot of ways, Jared is a security mechanism. When the ball’s in his hands, you know good things are gonna happen.”

Kansas led from start to finish and forced the Buckeyes to rely on others for their offense. Buford led OSU with 21 points on 8-for-23 shooting.

“When you make mistakes against Kansas, they’re so good they make you pay,” Matta said. “And we made some key mistakes. We lost to a great, great basketball team in a phenomenal environment.”


Randy Maxwell 9 years, 10 months ago

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HawkKlaw 9 years, 10 months ago

"We lost to a great, great basketball team in a phenomenal environment." -Thad Matta

Oh, he's really trying to qualify it. Shut up and be a good winner.

bradynsdad 9 years, 10 months ago

I get the feeling the two don't like each other.

Jesse Newell 9 years, 10 months ago

Self said he was a great guy in the postgame press conference.

Check it out in Gary's notebook ...

nuleafjhawk 9 years, 10 months ago

Does anybody on the face of the planet like Motta ?

rcaltrider 9 years, 10 months ago

I don't see why not? What has he done for people to not like him? And it's Matta, not Motta.

nuleafjhawk 9 years, 10 months ago

You say potato, I say I can't stand Matta.

Glad to know the spelling police are always on duty. We all feel safer.

Michael Bratisax 9 years, 10 months ago

He is doing something right..Motta has consistently brought in great recruiting classes. On the negative side is his Ohio State teams early exits from the NCAA despite several NBA 1st round draft picks.

nuleafjhawk 9 years, 10 months ago

So have Ol Roy and Coach K. I don't like them either.

It's not a matter of whether he's a good coach or not - it's my personal preference to have an extreme dislike for him.

ahpersecoachingexperience 9 years, 10 months ago

Reminds me of when Griffin from OU "p'd" against instead of playing against us every time. Scared!

Martin Shupert 9 years, 10 months ago

Weird he was able to be jumping all over the place over on the bench. I guess back spasms can come and go though.

captku 9 years, 10 months ago

yes, that is what my wife told me after the game was over, and she heard that he didn't play. I thought that was funny also. Motta just fell on the sword early, if you ask me. Sure, coaching is also psychological, but I thought not playing your all-american was lame. I have never had back spasms, but whatever.

Martin Rosenblum 9 years, 10 months ago

So Matt, what you're saying is that Motta Didn't go to Jared?

Ian Brown 9 years, 10 months ago

"Merry Christmas"... What an ostentatious p.o.s. Seriously.

We all knew this would happen if we beat them without Sullinger, but I didn't expect their head coach to be the first person to start making excuses trying to degrade what Kansas accomplished this afternoon. What's worse is that he began doing so before the game even started. Not only is that classless and disrespectful to the Jayhawks, but it's also disrespectful to his own team and players.

He reminds me of that friend everyone has who, when playing videogames and getting his butt kicked, blatantly quits trying at halftime and acts like he didn't care about the game the whole time so that after the game he can say, "Dude, I wasn't even trying the whole time, it's not like I cared," even though he only stopped trying after he started getting his ass kicked. Thad did the same thing by downplaying the importance of the game and by justifying the loss. Sure, it wasn't the NCAA Tournament, but unbeaten #2 OSU @ #13 KU at Allen Fieldhouse is a big game, and him saying otherwise was simply another way of justifying the loss and discounting KUs win.

I'm obviously a KU and Bill Self homer, but I can honestly guarantee Bill Self wouldn't have been so classless as to have basically told the opposing coach and especially the media that we would have won this game if we had our star player. Thad may not have explicitly said that, but judging by his post-game comments and his "Merry Christmas" to Self prior to the game, I think he obviously was implying as much with those comments. First, Self doesn't justify losses (I don't even think he tried to after TRobs tragedy--he immediately looked at what we did wrong and Texas did right); second, Self wouldn't disrespect the opposing team by discrediting their victory and attributing it to one player who didn't play; and third, Self would never disrespect his own TEAM (team in caps) by implicitly saying one single player makes or breaks his team, even if it is true.

Thad went on to say that "it'd be very similar they didn't play Robinson today." I'm sorry coach, but no, no it's not. T-Rob is much, much more valuable to KU than Sullinger is to OSU. OSU is still a very, very good team without Sullinger; where as, Kansas would absolutely implode without T-Rob.

Suffice it to say, Thad Matta is now a fixture in my "Coaches I Hate" list along with Calipari, Scott Drew, Jim Boeheim, Jay Wright, and probably a number of others I'm forgetting.

Michael Auchard 9 years, 10 months ago

I don't know about the "Coaches I Hate" nameplate, but -- yeah. Pretty classless move by Thad, from start to finish. I try not to hate too many of these evil jerks that coach other teams. It just drags me down and makes me get old faster. I just really dislike them instead.

mojayhawk 9 years, 10 months ago

I say good for Thad. He just insulted the rest of HIS team. I wonder how they like that?

JHWK 9 years, 10 months ago

Well said! Another reason he's rarely listed in the top tier of coaches.

bad_dog 9 years, 10 months ago

You know, if you add Sullinger's 19.1 ppg average to OSU's final total and subtract Evanel's 9 points, KU still wins the game by 1.

All hypothetical, but it's the best we've got for mere supposition.

Sam Constance 9 years, 10 months ago

Great post. You basically summed up my exact feelings on the matter.

As someone on another blog said, Matta played the "calculated" card, by putting his own team in a "win-win" situation and KU in a "lose-lose" situation. I can't begrudge him that, even though I don't really respect taking the "easy" way when you are getting paid seven figures to coach a game and are the #2 ranked team in the country.

What I can begrudge is the fact that he knew there was a fire hazard, but instead of being respectful and letting the rabble rousing masses start all the "OSU would've won if Sullinger had played!" garbage, he lit the match himself.

"Merry Christmas". What an insufferable dirtbag move. I have a feeling he was trying to squeeze into Self's head with that little pre-game diddy.

Joseph Kuebel 9 years, 10 months ago

That's like playing a girl, so to speak. If you win its discounted and you beat a girl, congrats! But, if you lose you just lost to a girl!! Sounds awfully sorry to me. And yes, I just compared KU beating Ohio State with the likes of beating a girl... Hah, good.

Brianna Zaleski 9 years, 10 months ago

You know, I spent all nite sayin how I respected Matta for sitting JS because of the big picture and making sure he was healthy at the right time. But after reading that schmuck make excuses for it, much less tell HCBS "Merry Xmas", I say I'm glad we stuck it to them and that the computers won't know that JS didn't play come selection time.


ajhk 9 years, 10 months ago

Thanks for "giving" us that one Matta. Jeez, I had no idea he's such a sleazeball. Yeah, we all know Sully is a great player and did not play. Does he really need to be so redundant?
I have to say it's sad when the head coach says his team can't compete without one specific player. If that's the case, they should never be ranked so high. At least the top five should be for "teams" that could still play with anyone if they lose a player. Ohio State is admittedly not in that group. Suck it Matta!

ironhead80 9 years, 10 months ago

Matta is a cry baby, Sullinger is over rated he will not make it in the NBA. TROB has a better upside to be a NBA stud. Mark my words.

Marcia Parsons 9 years, 10 months ago

Since Self thinks Matta is a good guy, I started wondering if his "Merry Christmas" could have been taken more than one way. Bill said he said more than just the two words. Maybe he was saying that, for him, it had turned out to be a rotten Christmas. ("Some kind of #@!!@ merry Christmas.") Otherwise, he really is a jerk to intimate that he was giving Kansas a present by not playing Sullinger.

nuleafjhawk 9 years, 10 months ago

Merry Christmas right back at you Thad "Already Ready to Lose" Matta.

What kind of coach says that anyway? You think Coach Self would say that if T-Rob had to sit out?

I hope we get the chance to finish you off with a "Happy New Year" in March as well.

I wanted Sullinger to play for that very reason. The rest of your team stepped up and played great, why not give them some credit. Are you too stupid to realize that even without Sullinger, they can beat a lot of good teams? Oh - yes, you are.

MinnesotaJay 9 years, 10 months ago

I smell chicken, not on Sullinger's part, rather on Matta's.

You don't play Sullinger and win, you're off the charts awesome. You lose, hey, you didn't have Sullinger.

You play Sullinger and win, big deal, you were supposed to. You lose, you've got egg on your face.

Could Sullinger have played? Was there really any risk involved? Who knows? Guess we'll have to take 'Matta's word' for it. NOT! Smell test failure!

fansincewilt 9 years, 10 months ago

If it were a game time decision, Sullinger could have obviously played. Why didn't he play? Maybe, if Sullinger is less than 100%, Motta knows TRob will get the best of him. The only way that Sullinger could possibly match up with Robinson, he would have to be 100%. If the team is important, you forget the matchups and focus on winning. I may be wrong but even if he could have given them 10 minutes, that may have helped them. However, he would not have been the main focus on this national stage. I really don't think this attitude will win in March.

blackhawkjayhawk 9 years, 10 months ago

When coaches make dumba** comments like that, my first thought is: what do the other kids on your team think when you say things like this?

Given where KU bball is right now, a win is a win. Take the win, learn from the film and get better. Far more meaningful games are on the horizon.

KU79 9 years, 10 months ago

Watching the clip, it appeared to me that he was joking. The comment "looked" better than it "reads." But I could be wrong.

Micky Baker 9 years, 10 months ago

Well, Sullinger averages19 points a game, but, we had a guy step up. His 19 points(after backing out his sub's,would have still been a w for Kansas).

KU played real good defense Saturday from all positions. And we're missing two solid recruits, which would have meant KU wins this game by 25. This team is better than I thought they were going to be, and with the new guys coming in next year including the two that aren't going to be playing this year.

Mel Clare 9 years, 10 months ago years team.........WOW!

dylans 9 years, 10 months ago

Who cares about next year this isn't football. Go win now!

Joseph Kuebel 9 years, 10 months ago

Yea with T-Rob goin to the NBA and Tyshawn gone... Wow. Despite the recruits next year is going to be the toughest year we have had since pre-Roy Williams.

Mel Clare 9 years, 10 months ago

Sullinger may have had 30 points and 15 boards................OR he may have had 6 points 1 board and fouled out with 8 minutes left and OSU still down 9...............who really knows?

Point is OSU lost................does not matter who plays and who doesnt.

rcaltrider 9 years, 10 months ago

Damn, a lot a whining on here about a comment one coach made to another in jest before a game. Bill Self didn't have a problem about it and isn't whining about it, maybe some of you should let it go as well. Just enjoy the victory and shut up!

johnnyphoton 9 years, 10 months ago

Watch it. Some people on this board know Tu Holloway.

bad_dog 9 years, 10 months ago

Yeah, we got some gangstas in the locker room, but they're not thugs. Tough guys, we're grown men...

Wow, Tu and some of his crew might see some suspensions too.

Gary Wirsig 9 years, 10 months ago

My thoughts too. Can't we give Matta credit for protecting Sullinger from further injury, especially in the pre-conference part of OSU's schedule? You all are reading way too much into one comment. Matta is clearly a great recruiter, and a decent coach. Self calls him a "great guy". We have enough real enemies in the world - let's not manufacture new ones that don't really exist.

MinnesotaJay 9 years, 10 months ago

Some criticism of Matta, maybe even a few cheap shots. But, the post that sounds most like a 'whine' is yours. Translation, 'Come on you guys, waaaa, quit it.' Here's a thought. Shut the hell up yourself!

rcaltrider 9 years, 10 months ago

I see I hit a nerve with you. Sometimes the truth hurts, I guess. You were grasping at straws with your childish translation. One day you will grow up however and then be able to have a big boy conversation.

MinnesotaJay 9 years, 10 months ago

You ignorant punk, if you'd read my post above, you'd have seen that I didn't even comment on Matta's words to HCBS, but rather on his decision not to play Sullinger. So, how in the world could your ridiculous bit of santimony strike a nerve??? Duh. I merely pointed out that you, the whiner, were accusing others of what you were most guilty of. Man up, and own it. Asking too much?

rcaltrider 9 years, 10 months ago

Thank you for proving my point about your childishness and your need to grow up. Internet tough guys like you make me laugh, especially when you try to use big words but can't spell them. I believe the word you were going for was sanctimony. So even your attempt at sounding intelligent fell flat on its face. And you are really grasping at straws to say my original post was whining. But keep trying, maybe you will convince someone other than yourself. Thanks for the laugh and have a nice day.

HawksWin 9 years, 10 months ago

On a big stage & big match up, Matta didn't think or act like a champion to be. Withholding his biggest hand to play safe was a huge disappointment not only for all college BB fans & media, but his own team & college. He knew he couldn't win at AFH, so why bring on a risk. Losers think that way. Would Self have done the same? No. Matta won't go far in March just as he didn't last year. He doesn't have a winner's attitude or belief or confidence! Merry Christmas to your team Matta!

dylans 9 years, 10 months ago

Obviously not or Ty would've gone under the knife earlier so Self could've had an excuse for loosing.

HawksWin 9 years, 10 months ago

Ty is a winner for playing with his knee! He thinks like one & acted liked one against Matta! And TT won! We love our Jayhawks for giving their best - always & no matter what. Now that's true champ! Matta denied his team & the best player a chance to be the champ at AFH.

KansasComet 9 years, 10 months ago

The bottom line is Sullinger could have played, and he didn't. Thad Matta must have thought that his team could beat Kansas with Sullinger, but they didn't. I am looking forward to next year's game when the Jayhawks will be loaded with talent and experience. Kevin Young can ball. Conner Teahan has started driving to the basket, Tyshawn Taylor has heart, Travis Releford has hustle, Thomas Robinson is a beast, and Elijah Johnson has a sweet jump shot. Go Jayhawks, hopefully we will enter the top ten this week.

hawker07 9 years, 10 months ago

Matta made Sullinger sit so he could have an excuse for getting embarassed in Allen Fieldhouse. He knew he could have let him play, Sullinger wanted to play. Matta wanted a scapegoat, and that explains his comment at the beginning of the game. He knew he had his scapegoat before the game began. If he wanted to compete, he would have had him in for momentum swings or during crucial defensive stands. Mere minutes in the long run, but they could have been key. His team obviously has their weaknesses, and he didn't want them exposed by a fundamentally sound defense like KU. Instead of using the opportunity to teach his kids how to be competitive and good sports in a losing effort, he is choosing to ignore their weaknesses and blame them on an absent player. Fail for Matta, another solid victory for the Hawks at home!

TwistedFish31 9 years, 10 months ago

Bad Back was jumping all over the bench every time osu got the game back to single digits so...seems a little odd that he couldn't play but he could do jumping jacks cheering on his teammates.

HawksWin 9 years, 10 months ago

Well what could Self say on tv? He thinks Matta's an a** or loser? Self is too smart & classy for that. Here's one to Matta - Practice true sportsmanship & man up coach!

chriz 9 years, 10 months ago

Anyone know if he was just responding to questions about Sullinger or did he keep bringing him up? If the reporters led him to those comments, maybe it's not so bad? I know that Self would probably refocus his comments but would also credit his sitting star.

jaybate 9 years, 10 months ago

Thad Matta, kiss my atta!

We beat you.

We beat you ducking us.

We beat you being a chicken bleep coach.

We beat your chicken bleep Sullinger.

We beat you with more injured players playing.

We are deeper than OSU.

We are better than OSU.

TT on one knee outplayed Craft.

Travis Releford reduced Buford to 8-23. Buford can have 21 that way any time.

With the refs calling a fair game, KU would have blown OSU out by 25.

With Sullinger, TRob will kick Sullinger and with a healthy TT, Craft will completely disappear.

Poor Thad "I Can't Get It Done" Matta.

Have you heard your new nickname?

Duck Matta.

Don't fire him, Ohio State, please don't fire him.

We like beating him.

Rock Chalk!

gongs4ku 9 years, 10 months ago

Wow, Matta says "merry xmas" and you guys all begin to weep. It was a good-natured joke. We won, be happy.

rcaltrider 9 years, 10 months ago

Some people just want to find something to whine about and something to dislike someone about. Matta is one of the nice guys, save the venom for actual a-holes like Calipari.

Sam Constance 9 years, 10 months ago

Just so we're clear, those "some people" also include those who feel the need to whine about and dislike the comments of others...

And maybe Matta is a nice guy. But the xmas comment was in poor taste and not really in the spirit of "good sportsmanship", joke or not.

That's like one of those stick-your-toe-in-the-water "jokes", where it's not really a joke, but if you say it with a grin on your face, you can pretend it was all in fun after the fact if it happens ot bother someone. Not sure where the humor is in making a comment that implies you are handing a competitive advantage to your opponent.

Now, if Sullinger had been physically unable to compete, maybe then it's a "joke", because there was no choice in the matter. But whe it's pretty clear that it was a choice, and then you make a comment as if you chose to give your opponent an advantage, then your comment is just sleezy.

RustyTee 9 years, 10 months ago

"Kansas wound up shooting 58.3 percent from the field, while the Buckeyes made 39 percent.

Buoyed by a frenzied crowd that jammed Allen Fieldhouse to the rafters, the Jayhawks raced to a 23-13 lead just over midway through the first half, the decibel level at one point registering 114 on the scoreboard - roughly equal to that of a rock concert."

Sixth man in Allen Fieldhouse does it again!

burnmu 9 years, 10 months ago

If you're blogging in Matta's defense, you're insane! What Jaybate blogged is accurate and sums up Matta and OSU as a whole. I lived in the shadow of the poisonous buckeye in Ohio after moving from Lawrence. It's how "THOSE" people are, they can't handle that there are actually programs out there better than OSU. By the way, Ohio University is THE Ohio University, not OSU. OSU had to rob the first land grant school in the state too, trying to claim that they're THE OSU. Bung holes. Thanks Jaybate, once again you come correct

bjejayhawk69 9 years, 10 months ago

Sullinger could have played with back spasms. If it is only back spasms there is nothing structurally wrong with his back - it is just a muscle strain that is painful. Meds would have calmed it down. It is sometimes even worse with prolonged sitting - which he did the whole game. But rest does make it better and maybe he was looking to get him healthy for the rest of the year but like most teams their schedule usually gets real easy around Xmas time so there would be plenty of time to rest him.

I think Matta thought he could rest him and OSU would still win. The Merry Xmas thing was childlish. It is like saying well we really aren't trying to win this game so if we lose it was only because I decided to sit Sullinger. Is is that big of a deal - no but it is something I don't think Self would do or say. I don't any one rates Matta as one of the top coaches but he does get a lot of talent at OSU - he needs to do more with it at the end of the year.

Sullinger is a good college player but I don't think his style of play will make him an NBA star. Too short and limited perimeter game - look at Wayne Simien. And Wayne had I think had a better jump shot.

Ohiohawkfan6188 9 years, 10 months ago

As a KU alum in Ohio, the win felt extra special. You play with the team you can put on the court. Our team beat their team. Simple as that. Rock Chalk!

KULA 9 years, 10 months ago

Merry Christmas? Eff u Thad. He didn't play Sullinger cuz it was a no win situation for him. If they win, it's just a game they should've won, and if they lose w/ JS, they look bad and drop further in the polls.

KANSTUCKY 9 years, 10 months ago

“(Sullinger) was trying as hard as he could to convince us (to let him play). But I’m looking out for my players’ best interest, and I’m looking out for our program’s best interest.”

Not to mention our rankings best interest apparently.

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