Skip to content

Thad Matta and Sean Miller put friendship on the line in Sweet 16

Mar 28, 2013, 1:21 PM EDT

Thad Matta

The most intriguing part of the matchup between No. 2 seed Ohio State and No. 6 seed Arizona has less to do with the Buckeyes and the Wildcats that will be on the court than the ones that will be stalking the sidelines.

Thad Matta and Sean Miller are good friends with a coaching connection that dates back two decades. Back in 1994, Matta was hired as an assistant coach at Miami (OH), where Miller was already a member of the staff. While their career paths separated as both bounced between assistant coaching gigs over the next few years, when Matta was hired as the head coach at Xavier, he scooped up Sean Miller from NC State to be his lead assistant.

He even let Miller live in his house, with Miller’s pregnant wife and two sons, while they went house hunting.

That decision led directly to Miller’s first head coaching gig, as he was hired to replace Matta when Matta took over at Ohio State in 2004.

It gets better: this isn’t the first time the two have met in the NCAA tournament. The last time? 2007, when Ron Lewis hit this memorable shot and with Gus Johnson calling the action:

Perhaps the strongest indicator of how close these two are is that, despite regaling the media with stories about the pranks that they’ve pulled on each other, Matta still doesn’t bring up this win with Miller:

As a result of how that game unfolded, it’s one of the few subjects neither Miller nor Matta bring up with one-another. In addition to the heartbreak of wasting a late nine-point lead for Xavier, the outcome was controversial because referees opted not to call an apparent intentional foul on Greg Oden for shoving a Musketeers player out of bounds with 10 seconds left in regulation.

“That was as big a heartbreaker as I can remember,” said Xavier director of basketball administration Mario Mercurio, who worked under both Matta and Miller as well. “I’ve never watched a tape of that game. I’ve never seen Ron Lewis’ shot except for when it was live. I would say that not many people at Xavier acknowledge that game’s existence. I don’t know if Sean and Thad talk about that game much, but I know this. I never talk to Sean about it.”

Hopefully, we’ll get a game that’s just as exciting tonight.

And I doubt that another heart-breaking loss would hurt their friendship.

“When you lose the game —and hopefully that won’t be me — it’s a little bit easier, I believe, to deal with because no matter who Ohio State plays, I always cheer for them because of my relationship with Thad,” Miller said.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Latest Posts
  1. Georgia, Mark Fox agree to contract extension through 2020

    May 22, 2015, 4:27 PM EDT

    Mark Fox AP

    Fox has led the Bulldogs to two NCAA tournament appearances in his six years as head coach, including last season’s 21-win team.

  2. Former Bradley guard to complete eligibility at Rutgers

    May 22, 2015, 2:40 PM EDT

    Darius Carter, Zach Brown, Omari Grier AP

    The Rutgers perimeter rotation may be crowded, but there’s plenty of room for contributions as the team won just ten games last season.

  3. North Carolina announces receipt of Notice of Allegations from NCAA

    May 22, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    UNC now has 90 days to craft a response to the NCAA’s allegations.

  4. Four-star 2016 power forward commits to UConn

    May 22, 2015, 12:05 PM EDT

    (AP) AP

    This isn’t the only addition UConn hopes to make to the 2016 class in the very near future.

  5. Duke, Louisville and Kansas among Kentucky’s non-conference opponents

    May 22, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    The Wildcats will also take on Arizona State, UCLA and Ohio State in non-conference play.

  6. VCU hopes to regain year of eligibility for junior college transfer

    May 22, 2015, 9:50 AM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwi3otuyzgqyymy0yzdhm2mzntk2mzg5zmrlnzczm2vm AP

    Mohamed and Bakersfield big man Aly Ahmed argued in 2013 that bad advice led to them being ruled ineligible that season at Houston and Bakersfield, respectively.

  7. 6-foot-10 power forward becomes Virginia’s fourth 2016 commitment

    May 21, 2015, 10:40 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    The slender forward joins Sacha Killeya-Jones, Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy in Virginia’s 2016 haul.

  8. Power forward becomes Texas Tech’s fourth 2015 commitment

    May 21, 2015, 9:35 PM EDT

    2014 Adidas Nations Getty Images

    Davis joins grassroots teammate C.J. Williamson Jr. in Texas Tech’s 2015 recruiting haul.

  9. North Carolina’s Roy Williams discusses impact of NCAA investigation on recruiting

    May 21, 2015, 8:00 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    UNC fell short in the race for Brandon Ingram, and the investigation was a big reason why.

  10. Matchups for Basketball Hall of Fame Classic announced

    May 21, 2015, 7:30 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    John Calipari will coach against former assistant Orlando Antigua November 27 in Miami.

  11. Georgia Tech lands second graduate student in former UALR forward

    May 21, 2015, 6:35 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    The Jonesboro, Georgia native averaged 11.9 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game as a redshirt junior at UALR.

  12. Sports book lists Maryland as early favorite to win national title

    May 21, 2015, 4:58 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Last spring Mark Turgeon was seen by some as being on the “hot seat.” This spring, one sports book believes he’s got the early favorite to win the national title in 2016.

  13. John Calipari is selling his program when he says national title isn’t a goal

    May 21, 2015, 2:09 PM EDT

    150521calipari Getty Images

    Cal is always selling his program, and his latest viral quote is no different.

  14. Ben Howland lands commitment from four-star forward from Kentucky

    May 21, 2015, 12:40 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Holman was expected to spend 2015-16 at a prep school.

  15. LSU’s ’25 is coming’ campaign doesn’t try to hide that they’re monetizing Ben Simmons

    May 21, 2015, 10:34 AM EDT

    Ben Simmons (Kelly Kline/Under Armour) Ben Simmons (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

    But this overt display of ‘amateurism’ may actually be good for the fight for student-athlete rights.

  16. St. John’s lands 2015 point guard Marcus LoVett Jr.

    May 21, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    (Nike) (Nike)

    The Red Storm are now up to seven newcomers with this addition.

  17. Iowa State AD urges fans to remain calm over Fred Hoiberg possibilities

    May 20, 2015, 10:25 PM EDT

    AP AP

    While Chicago has been discussed for quite some time as a franchise that may approach “The Mayor,” they still have a head coach in Tom Thibodeau.