He started hearing from friends and family members that he either hadn’t talked to in decades, or, in some cases, had never heard of.
Not one of them wanted to talk about old times or how Matta was doing, and nobody was trying to congratulate him for his North Cobb Christian basketball team going 28-1 this past season. They all wanted to talk about his brother — Thad Matta, the head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes — and whether Greg thought Thad could get them tickets to the Final Four in New Orleans.
“Can Thad get (them) tickets? Thad can’t get me tickets,” joked Greg, who’s 2½ years older.
He said a few callers at least made small talk first, but they eventually all got around to asking the same question. And, when Matta relayed the bad news, many then changed the subject.
“What about shirts and hats?”
“People just don’t understand that side of the business,” Matta said. “Coaches don’t have time for that stuff, and with Thad, he’s just focused on one thing — Kansas.”
Ohio State will play the Jayhawks in the late game Saturday night, about 30 minutes after the Louisville-Kentucky showdown opens up the Final Four at the Superdome.
Matta will be one of the lucky ones in attendance, thanks to the folks in the Ohio State traveling party. But, before anyone thinks Matta was getting a freebie, he made it very clear he was paying for his own tickets.
For Matta, Saturday’s game — and, hopefully, the championship two days later — is a glimpse inside his brother’s world, and that’s college basketball at the highest level. And when Greg sees the pressure Thad is under, it makes him appreciate his job at North Cobb Christian even more.
Matta tried the college route before. Twice, he was a member of Tony Ingle’s staff at Kennesaw State, and he was a rumored candidate for the Owls’ job when it came open following the 2010-11 season.
Right now, however, Matta says he is content with helping young players on his own team like Stephon Jelks and Hunter Ware reach their potential.
“I love working at the high school level,” Matta said. “Yes, you always dream about that big-time college job and going to the Final Four, but I like sleeping in my own bed.”
Just not this weekend.
Matta said he planned to leave for the Big Easy today, and while he may not be coaching on the collegiate level, he knows plenty about the four schools that will take the court at the Superdome.
Matta said he likes Kentucky in the first game. He expects the Wildcats to run, and he said the key will be the big guys — All-American Anthony Davis, Terrance Jones and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist — getting all the way to the basket when they are in transition.
For Louisville, the only way the Cardinals can win is by slowing the pace and getting Kentucky to play a half-court game.
In Game 2, he likes the Buckeyes — naturally — to take care of Kansas. This time, Ohio State will be at full-strength because All-American Jared Sullinger did not play against the Jayhawks when Kansas beat the Buckeyes early in the season.
“I like Ohio State. (Aaron) Craft can get all the guys where they need to be. Sullinger has to stay out of foul trouble, and if (Deshaun) Thomas can stay humble and crash the boards, they should win.”
As for a potential championship game between Kentucky and Ohio State — does the question really need to be asked?
“Ohio State all the way.”
This is actually the second time Matta will see his brother coach in the Final Four. The first time was 2007, when Ohio State lost to Florida at the Georgia Dome.
The following season, Matta took North Cobb Christian to a perfect season, which included winning the National Association of Christian Athletes Division I national championship.
So, it begs the question — has Thad called Greg for any advice on how to win a national championship?
“Thad doesn’t ask my advice, because he’s afraid that I might give it to him.”