Not only did Aaron Craft’s jaw-rattling charge and buzzer-beating trey knock Iowa State off the block, but it sent Thad Matta to the sixth Sweet 16 of his career to face his former assistant Sean Miller.
Miller and Matta go back like chiropractors. Much of the storylines heading into their Sweet 16 showdown will focus on their Cincinnati days at Xavier, but that was just the second chapter of their journey together through the college ranks.
In the early 90’s Miller and Matta were coaches on Herb Sendek’s staff at the University of Miami (Ohio). However, they weren’t alone.
Throughout it’s history, Miami (Ohio) hasn’t gained much national prominence for athletic success, but it has established itself as a launching point for coaching’s most recognizable names.
While its most prominent members have staked their claim on the gridiron, (John Harbaugh, Sean Payton, Jim Tressel, Bo Schembechler, Woody Hayes, Paul Brown and Ron Zook, etc.), Sendek’s coaching tree is prodigious enough to get a spot outside Rockefeller Center on Christmas. It’s one of the largest in the nation, but Miller and Matta are the strongest limbs.
Oxford, OH might seem like a random location for two coaching giants to emerge from, but Miami (Ohio) has earned a reputation as the Cradle of Coaching.
They’re paths to next Thursday’s Sweet 16 matchup are more intertwined than just their beginnings at Miami (Ohio). They also formed their own Two Musketeers when Miller joined Matta’s Xavier coaching staff in 2002. After Matta accepted the Ohio State coaching job three years later, Miller took the program’s reigns.
From there, Miller matched Matta’s accomplishments and parlayed his five-year tenure as the Musketeers head coach into a spot at the head of Lute Olsen’s old stomping grounds.
In the Sweet 16, they’ll meet for the first time since Miller packed his bags and booked a flight to the Pac-10. By Thursday night, one of the two will be booking a flight home and the other will stick around for the Elite Eight.