Thad Matta to return to Butler University to coach men’s basketball

In this March 8, 2017, file photo, Ohio State head coach Thad Matta gestures during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Big Ten tournament against Rutgers, in Washington. Butler University has named Matta its next head coach. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Thad Matta is headed back to the Butler University men’s basketball program—for the fourth time.

Matta, who was previously Butler’s head coach for one season after two stints as an assistant and three seasons as a player, will replace LaVall Jordan, whom the school fired on Friday after two straight losing seasons and a second consecutive finish near the bottom of the Big East Conference.

Matta was an assistant at Butler from 1991-1994 and again from 1997-2000 before he was named head coach, replacing Barry Collier, for the 2000-2001 season. The Bulldogs went 24–8 that year, earning a spot in the NCAA Tournament, where they lost in the second round.

Matta left Butler in 2001 to go to Xavier University. In 2004, he took the top job at Ohio State, where he became the winningest coach in the school’s history. He led the Buckeyes to five Big Ten regular season championships, four Big Ten tourney titles and two Final Four appearances.

But in 2017, after Ohio State failed to win 20 games (the only time that has happened in Matta’s 17 years as a head coach), Ohio State and Matta agreed to part ways.

He spent the 2021-22 season as the associate athletic director for basketball administration at Indiana University.

Collier, now Butler’s athletics director, made the coaching announcement Sunday, and the school said it is planning an event for Wednesday in which Matt “will be re-introduced to the Butler community.” Details are pending.

“The success that Thad has achieved at every one of his programs speaks for itself,” Collier said in a statement. “He is a championship-caliber coach and recruiter who brings valuable experience and contagious energy to Butler. I have seen that personally in Thad as a player, assistant coach and head coach.”

As a head coach, Matta has a record of 439-154. His teams have advanced to the NCAA Tournament 13 times.

Matta played for Butler from 1987-1990 after transferring from South Illinois University and graduated in 1990. His wife, Barb, and daughter, Ali, are also Butler grads. Another daughter, Emily, is pursuing her undergraduate degree at Butler.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to return to Butler and lead our men’s basketball program,” Matta said in a statement. “There is a solid foundation in place and I’m confident that Butler will consistently be among the top programs in the Big East. I can’t wait to attack the work we have in front of us and to be back on the sidelines at Hinkle Fieldhouse.”

LaVall Jordan

The announcement comes just a few days after Butler announced it had fired Jordan, who was also a former Butler player and had been its head coach for five seasons.

Collier said in a written statement Friday that he had “come to the decision that a change in the leadership of our men’s basketball program is needed.

“These decisions are never easy, but are incredibly more difficult when it impacts a high-character Bulldog who has represented our university so well for many years,” Collier said.

The firing followed back-to-back sub-.500 seasons for the Bulldogs, who have failed to reach the postseason since 2019 (though they were likely a lock for the canceled 2020 NCAA Tournament). Butler was 14-19 this season after a 10-15 campaign in 2020-2021.

During Jordan’s tenure, Butler went 83-74 overall, compiling a 40-54 record in the Big East Conference. The team reached postseason play two times in his tenure: the 2018 NCAA Tournament and the 2019 National Invitation Tournament.

Jordan, 42, was a guard for Butler from 1997 to 2001, and Collier was his coach his first three years. Jordan was a starter his last two seasons, earning all-conference honors. He played professional basketball in Europe for one year after graduating.

He also was an assistant on the team’s staff from 2003-2007 and had stints at the universities of Iowa and Michigan before taking on the role of head coach at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2016. He was hired as Butler’s 24th head coach in June 2017.

Jordan was unable to return the Bulldogs to the unprecedented heights achieved under Brad Stevens, who led the team to surprise appearances in the 2010 and 2011 national championship games when the school was in the Horizon League.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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4 thoughts on “Thad Matta to return to Butler University to coach men’s basketball

  1. Great for Butler. The smartest move Collier could have made. Great for Mike Woodson, too. Without a doubt, Woodson is the king of the IU basketball program now. No Dane, no Thad, no heir apparent.

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