COLUMBUS: During the NCAA Tournament, Ohio State coach Thad Matta finally revealed that he has drop foot, an extremely painful condition that requires him to wear an orthotic brace just to walk.
His right foot was rendered useless after he underwent back surgery in June 2007, when old back issues flared up on the golf course. Matta has no balance and is forced to wear sneakers during games. Assistants had to hold each of his legs so he could climb four steps on a ladder to cut down the nets after the Buckeyes won the East Regional in Boston on Saturday.
According to a story by Jeff Goodman on CBSSports.com, Matta can’t even take out the garbage or stand at the kitchen sink.
“It’s crazy, he just has one foot and you never hear him complain about it,” OSU senior guard William Buford said Tuesday during a news conference at Value City Arena. Sophomore guard Aaron Craft said he feels for Matta.
“He does a great job of not letting it hinder what he wants to do,” Craft said. “A lot of that is predicated on how well we might be practicing that day. If it’s not going so well, he moves around and does what he has to do to try to get us going. The only time you hear about it is when we’re complaining about being sore and he says, ‘You have no idea.’ That’s the extent of it.
“He’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve ever been around and he doesn’t let it be an excuse for him. It’s awesome to have a leader like that who’s willing to sacrifice a lot of comfort to help us be successful. It gives us a role model to look at.”
Smelling the roses
Matta said when the Buckeyes reached the Final Four in 2007 he never allowed himself to soak in the experience. He hopes to do that this time as OSU travels to New Orleans to face Kansas on Saturday.
“In ’07 it was like, ‘OK, we’re going to Atlanta, we’re playing Georgetown, Princeton offense, we’re going to sprinkle in a zone, they won’t know it’s coming.’ I never really took a deep breath and said, ‘We’re in the Final Four,’?” Matta recalled.
“I didn’t realize there were 50,000 people in the Georgia Dome the night we played [Florida]. It was like, ‘Here’s the court. There’s [Al] Horford, [Joakim] Noah, how are we going to guard those type of guys?’?”
Matta said he had a “defining moment” on Monday when he sat in his backyard drinking a cup of coffee.
“There were four deer in the woods behind my house. I said, ‘Hey fellas, Buckeyes are going to the Final Four’ and they took off running,” Matta said. “I thought that was good for me; I thought that was a step in the right direction.”
Still, Matta isn’t sure he will allow himself to appreciate the moment.
“I said I will, but I won’t,” he said.
That’s a vice?
Findlay native Craft supposedly does have his vices, although his teammates were hesitant to dish much dirt.
“He thinks he knows everything, for one,” Buford said.
“He’s always correcting our English, our grammar,” sophomore Jared Sullinger said.
“I do correct their English because I’m trying to prepare them for a situation where they might be with someone important and they don’t want to have the same mistake there,” Craft said. “That and it just bothers me, they use bad English a lot.”
Marla Ridenour can be reached at email@example.com. Read her blog at https://ohio.com/blogs/marla. Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.