Matt Richards, Associate Dean of Students, Director of Athletics and Men’s Basketball Coach, had a lot to say about himself, his program and his expectations as a player. He was hired by SMCC in 2003 and with his impact, he changed the Seawolves program into one of the most competitive programs.
BM: Why did you choose to be a coach?
MR: Well, I knew I wanted to do something in athletics like going away to college like that was a given. I wanted to stay involved in athletics so being a student athlete myself, I got to be involved in our athletic department at the school that I went to and I had various jobs there. And, you know, just coaching was kind of an outlet for me to continue to be in the sport that I participated in, allowing me to continue to work with people which I wanted to do. So really, for me, it was a combination of coaching and being an administrator, which was my pathway. But yeah, I mean, it was for me being able to continue to do something that I, as a player, love to do and to think that I could be picking a profession was ideal.
BM: Where’d you go to college?
MR: So I did my undergrad at Colby Sawyer College inNew Hampshire. And then I did my master’s degree at University of Northern Colorado.
BM: Colorado, really! Okay. Now. How would you describe your coaching style?
MR: I would say it’s still evolving. When I first got into coaching, my thought was you needed to just be you, needed to work longer, work harder than your opponent, do more recruiting, and spend more time breaking down film and whatnot. And as I’ve gotten older, I would say I spend way more time as a coach, building relationships. Because I feel like when you have solid relationships with your players, what you can accomplish is greater than just simply saying we’re going to work harder than everybody else. There’s an element of that, like you do have to work hard. But, you know, early on in my career, I didn’t spend as much time as I do now on things like relationships, the culture of the team, you know, because I think those intangibles now are so much more important to a team’s success.
BM: What are some of your expectations you look for in a player?
MR: Again, that’s evolved, certainly, we want them to be talented from a skill perspective to be in our program, but I spent way more time getting to learn and know about a kid’s personal life. I want them to be a great fit. So, for me, I have recruited character more than talent over the years. And we’ve let really good talented players go because from a character standpoint, they just didn’t fit with what we expect and it is what it is.
BM: Now building off of that, what are your values of your program or within your program? What do you value most?
MR: So I think what I value the most is when people watch us play, they see kids that are respectful, that play together, that are willing to sacrifice personal accolades for team accolades. And that treats people respectfully. I don’t like a kid that mouths off to an official or the other team, you lose me right from there, I don’t want that. The one that is probably my next second, or one a/one b. I want kids to understand that what we do together and accomplish together is way more important than what you accomplish separately. I want a kid that understands, I’m a spokes in the wheel and I help make it go around, but making it roll around is the most important thing, that’s really big for me.
BM: Now, how does the college or your program support players missing class for games?
MR: Well, we try to avoid scheduling it so that that doesn’t come up as often as it does. So first off, there’s an administrative piece of trying to avoid that, from a scheduling standpoint. When it does happen, we want our kids to effectively communicate with their faculty. We have a phrase that we use that you have to communicate with your faculty early and often. That’s our phrase, have you done it early and often early and often, like at the beginning of the semester, find the conflicts, let them know ahead of time. That’s the early part, then the often is reminding them hey, this is coming up in two weeks. Hey, what do I need to do for you? Would you rather have me sit in on another class? Would you rather have me turn in the assignment early, so that’s the often piece. And I think when you can do it early, you can usually avoid a lot of conflicts.
BM: Okay. Now, what are your expectations academically for your players?
MR: I just want them to be the best they can be. I don’t necessarily put huge benchmarks into well, this is what our GPA is gonna be, you know, every kid’s different. You can’t treat every kid the same. There are kids that maybe aren’t going to be 3.5 students. Maybe their best as a 2.5. But within that, they’re going to show up to class on time. They’re not going to miss a class, they’re going to turn in all their work. When they’re struggling, they’re going to see a tutor. And if they’ve done all those things, and that’s a 2.5 okay, that’s your best. That’s all we ask. Now, if I have gifted academic kids and they’re not doing their best, and they’re getting a 3.2 and they should be a 3.5 then I’m on to them about that. If I get a report sheet back as well, we missed four classes, well, then you’re not doing your best. So don’t rest on your ability to be better.
BM: Now what does your typical practice look like?
MR: Oh, I would say you know, we spend a solid 15-20 minutes doing our warm up stuff. Then we’ll go into small group work. Then we’ll try and bring those things together from a team concept to doing some things, 5 on 5 then we always dedicate about 20 minutes in practice for individual skill development. So those are some factors that will always have a play. I always try to put in what I call pressure situations like hey, pressure free throws, you gotta hit him now before we move on to the next role. This helps us to try and emulate game-like, type of activity.
BM: Now, last question, does your team ever have team building activities?
MR: Yup, so right at the beginning of the year, we go away for a team retreat. We get out of campus, we’re gone. It’s just us. At that team retreat, we’re going to sit down and we’ll usually read one or two articles, and then we’ll talk about those, from there we’ll pull aside the important pieces that we want our team to do that year. We’ll talk about what our team goals are going to be. Then we talk about once those goals are in place, how we’re going to hold each other accountable to them. And then we always say what are the top three things that we want people to say about us on a first impression. And, we do that so that way they’ve come up with what it’s going to be and then they have more ownership in it.
Basketball has started and the Men’s team’s game is on November 6th versus Navy Prep. This will be their first game, so be sure to come and support them!