INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — On April 8, 2000, Jim McGrath, sports information director for Butler Athletics, was preparing to introduce the Bulldogs’ next head coach.
No stranger to the program, Thad Matta spent two different three years stints as an assistant coach at Butler after playing at Hinkle Fieldhouse for three seasons. The first-year head coach was an interesting choice to assume the role after Barry Collier left for Nebraska a few days earlier, especially given Collier’s success.
“Everybody knew Thad, and everybody liked Thad,” said McGrath. “There was a sense of confidence he could get it done but an uncertainty about how it would get done.”
FOX59 went through the archives and found footage from that day – Matta’s entire press conference included.
“It is a good situation to walk into,” Matta said about continuing Butler’s success. “That was part of the plan. If it wasn’t for Coach Collier, it was what I had hoped would happen and I could continue on forward.”
Matta was also very aware of the roster he was inheriting: “Coach Collier left the cupboards full, and I said, ‘I’d like to consider myself the stockboy.'”
McGrath recounted a serendipitous story Matta told to the Indianapolis and national media, which you can hear in the video below.
The first-year head coach followed the future one-and-done rule, spending one season in charge of the Bulldogs before heading to Xavier. It was a season to remember, including a 24-8 record to end the year, the Midwestern Collegiate Conference title, and the school’s first NCAA Tournament game win in 32 years.
Jim McGrath called it a sign of things to come for both Butler and Matta.
“It turned out it was the springboard to where the program was heading in the ensuing years,” said McGrath.
“If you talk about a coach being proven, Thad Matta is a proven coach. He’s had one season where he didn’t win 20 games, he’s been in the NCAA Tournaments, Final Fours, Elite Eights, etc.”
Matta posted a 439–154 record over 17 seasons before stepping away in June 2017 for medical issues. Twenty-two years later, Matta is coming back for his second stint as Butler’s head coach.
“When I heard he was coming back, I was absolutely excited,” said McGrath. “There wasn’t a better hire Barry could make.”
When asked about expectations for the second Matta regime, McGrath smiled.
“The sky’s the limit. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in another Final Four. I think Thad has the ability to do that.”
“Success runs hand in hand with Thad Matta and there’s no doubt. In my mind, he can get it done.”
This time, McGrath will watch from the stands with his fingers crossed, hoping for history to repeat itself once more.