Any time there is a coaching change, the players always will have some sort of awkward transition. If Friday's introduction of Thad Matta as Ohio State's new head men's basketball coach is any indication of the team's progress, they must feel right at home.
Matta left almost everyone who attended the press conference extremely impressed with his energy, his candidness, and most of all, his devotion to bringing Ohio State basketball to the next level.
"I'm fully aware of the state that this program's in right now," Matta told reporters. "And I stand before you today to let you know I've accepted this position for one reason and one reason only, and that is to bring Ohio State basketball back into national prominence."
His calming demeanor and sincere devotion struck the players as a very important thing, including junior wing Matt Sylvester.
"He seems very determined, and that means a lot to us," Sylvester said. "I really think this is going to turn things around."
Team captain Terrance Dials believes the team will be able to embrace Matta's style, but even more so his personality as well as the fact he wins.
"I think he is a really great guy," Dials said of his brief chance to get to know Matta. "He really cares about his players and he's also a proven winner. Right now, we have to get rid of the hard feelings from before, which I think we've done. We're on a new slate."
Matta addressed the issue of playing style, and what he brings to the table. Matta made it clear he wants to run.
"I'm bringing to Ohio State, a fun, exciting style of basketball," he said. "I want to play fast, as I told the players, but we will play smart. I'm not a guy that says, 'Boy, listen to this crowd, they love how fast we're running.' I'm more concerned about the shots we're getting or the turnovers we may be committing. We will be the hardest working, toughest team you've ever seen. We will defend, we will play smart, and we will play hard. And most importantly, as I told them, we will play together as a team."
At the very least, he made a fan of Ivan Harris, who would like to get out and play up-tempo.
"Everywhere I've ever played, I've been in a running system," Harris said of his high school days at Springfield South and Oak Hill Academy. "Then, I get here to Ohio State and Coach O'Brien slowed things down. Now, I realize that we weren't playing team ball and we were making a lot of careless mistakes, so I think that's why he did it, but I definitely want to run. I knew he was a running coach. I was very excited to hear about this."
Tony Stockman, a player who had just begun to grasp O'Brien's team concept, echoed Harris' sentiments and addressed his personal challenge of adapting to a new style.
"We were just getting comfortable as a team with Coach O'Brien's concept," he said. "It will be different to learn, but we're excited about his style of play and how he coaches. We still have to hustle on defense and we can't turn the ball over, but it should be exciting."
Matta seems to have quickly made believers in the Ohio State players.
"We got exactly what we needed," Sylvester said. "This program needed some changes and we got it. He's young, he's energetic, and he's exciting. I'm very excited. I think big things are definitely going to happen."
It seems now like the only transition left to make, is taking Ohio State to
the upper echelon of the college basketball world. Now, it's up to the players
to help Matta accomplish just that.