Thad Matta's body betrayed him, and now he's out a job.
He spent the past 13 seasons at Ohio State winning more games than any coach in school history, but he's gone now, and he can point to his back for the reason why.
Back in the summer of 2007, the Buckeyes were fresh off a trip to the national championship game in April, led by Mike Conley and Greg Oden. Matta underwent two back surgeries, including one under emergency conditions.
Matta has lived in varying states of pain since. He's unable to remove his own socks and shoes without aid. His limping right leg is obvious when he walks, and he requires a brace to aid a foot that is not fully functional, thanks to nerve damage.
For most of the past decade, he's managed the pain and run a successful college basketball program.
But on Monday afternoon, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith announced a change in leadership, removing Matta from his post.
Recruiting is the lifeblood of any college sport, a mostly thankless job equally important to game days. Doing that half of the job requires an often hectic travel schedule. For Matta, that means producing results is more difficult than the vast majority of college sports' other 49-year-old coaches.
Smith and Matta sat down to discuss the future of the program after the season and developed a plan, but struggles in recruiting led Smith to re-assess the situation late last week.
"We weren't winning the recruiting battles," Smith said. "As we started talking about it Friday, the flow of the conversation took me to the realization as I said to him, 'This might be the time to make a leadership change,' and he agreed."
The Buckeyes' 2017 recruiting class ranks 71st nationally, sandwiched between UTEP and Middle Tennessee State in 247Sports' composite rankings.
Matta was largely beloved around Columbus, but the results on the court didn't show a trajectory that offered much encouragement.
In 2016-17, the program suffered through a 17-15 year with no postseason for the first time since Matta's first season, when the program was ineligible for the tournament. The Buckeyes also endured a 7-11 campaign in Big Ten play, Matta's first losing season in conference play.
Matta insisted from the end of the season that he "felt good," but his dismissal of concerns about his health reeked of talking points built to sustain already failing results on the recruiting trail. On Monday, Matta did admit that "trying to get healthy" was among the reasons he's leaving.
Smith wanted to believe in Matta's ability to revive the program, but when basketball's early signing period closed on May 17, he was forced to confront reality.
The program had lost its way.
Monday's press conference was emotional. Matta said his goodbyes through tears. Neither he or Smith sounded like men who wanted a change. Both sides understood the simultaneous necessity and unfairness of the decision.
Man, words can't describe what Coach meant to me and the program! Wouldn't have wanted to play for anyone else! pic.twitter.com/JmkQtJ8CcW- Aaron Craft (@ACraft4) June 5, 2017
Matta's story parallels Golden State coach Steve Kerr's journey through this year's playoffs. He missed much of the first half of the 2015-16 season and 11 games in these playoffs before returning for Game 2 of The Finals.
Kerry, 51, had back surgery in 2015. A resulting spinal fluid leak produces pain and sickness that can incapacitate him.
Matta never missed a game in the decade since his surgery, but it's hard to believe the program would be in the shape it is now if he were 100 percent healthy. ESPN reported Monday that Matta pushed for more time, but even if he bumbled the decision's handling and timing, Smith's final decision feels like the correct one.
Before this season, Matta missed the NCAA Tournament just once at OSU and coached a rebuilding team that lost Oden and Conley to an NIT title.
In 2012, Matta made a Final Four, but the program's win total and postseason result has progressively worsened every year since. From 2007-10, the program produced six first-round picks. Just two Buckeyes have been first-rounders since.
To Matta's credit, he's agreed to take part in finding his replacement. The list of coaches who would participate in that exercise after being pushed out of a job they loved is short. Butler's Chris Holtmann figures to be a factor in the immediate national search, but Sports Illustrated reported that the Buckeyes' wish list also includes Xavier's Chris Mack, Arizona's Sean Miller, Texas' Shaka Smart, Cincinnati's Mick Cronin and Virginia Tech's Buzz Williams.
Matta won 20 games for 12 consecutive years, placing him in rarified air for a sport where dealing with roster turnover is most difficult. Consistency was his calling card, and to see the program fall off so quickly is jarring, punctuated by Monday's finale.
Looking forward, it's hard to blame the circumstances on much beyond Matta's back and the pain that came with it. Here's to hoping he can find a healthier future.