COLUMBUS, Ohio — Thad Matta is out as Ohio State’s basketball coach, with the Buckeyes having missed the last two NCAA tournaments amid an exodus of players.

Matta, who coached the team for 13 seasons, also cited his health at a news conference Monday. He has been troubled for years by chronic back problems that sometimes prevented him from taking off his shoes after a game.

“This has probably been the greatest 13 years of my life,” said Matta, his voice breaking as he quoted lyrics from the Grateful Dead. “Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me, other times I can barely see. Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it’s been.”

The 49-year-old coach said he and Athletic Director Gene Smith agreed he would leave.

“I think it’s the right thing for our program at the right time,” Smith said.

Matta had three years remaining on a contract extension he signed in 2012. Smith said a national search for his replacement will begin immediately, and Matta will participate in the search.

Matta, who previously coached at Butler and Xavier, took the Buckeyes to two Final Fours. Ohio State finished 17-15 this past season, the worst in Matta’s 17 years as a head coach. In the Big Ten tournament, Ohio State lost in the first round to Rutgers, the lowest-seeded team.

During the tournament, Smith said Matta’s job was secure. But on Friday they met and agreed to a change of course.

“We weren’t winning the battles in recruiting that I thought we might have a chance to win, as he did,” Smith said. “We started talking about that on Friday (and) the flow of the conversation took me to the reality.”

Matta said his chronic pain wore on him through the years and his focus now is on getting healthy. As for coaching again, he said: “Never say never.”

Matta’s teams won at least 20 games in 12 consecutive seasons, making him the school’s career leader in wins and games. He won five regular-season Big Ten titles and four league tournaments, the most championships of any coach over the last 13 seasons.

But the Buckeyes hit a rough patch the last two seasons. After they finished 21-14 and lost in the second round of the NIT in 2015-16, four out of five members of Matta’s 2015 recruiting class transferred. The Buckeyes limped to the end of the 2016-17 season, and then star guard JaQuan Lyle left the team without public explanation.


MICHIGAN STATE: Three Michigan State football players are being charged in an alleged sexual assault on campus in January, an attorney said.

Ingham County prosecutor Carol Siemon said only that three people were being charged in the incident, but didn’t release details or names.

Karen Truszkowski, an attorney for the accuser, told The Associated Press that the three are football players.

The school announced Feb. 9 that three players were suspended as part of a sexual assault investigation. A staff member associated with the football program also was suspended.