‘I feel like my greatest strength and certainly my passion is in player development’

Medomak Valley grad Matt MacKenzie enjoying success as Husson women’s basketball assistant

Wed, 09/26/2018 - 2:00pm

BANGOR — Warren native Matt MacKenzie starred on the basketball court as a player, and now the Medomak Valley graduate is shining on the court as an assistant coach with the Husson University women’s basketball program in Bangor. 

MacKenzie, who graduated from Husson in 2010 with a bachelor of science degree in physical education and is pursuing a master’s degree in athletic administration from the University of Arkansas, was a four-year letter winner with the Eagles men’s basketball team as a forward from 2007 to 2010. 

MacKenzie finished his collegiate basketball career with 1,300 points, 465 rebounds, 51 assists, 73 steals and 38 blocks in 105 games, according to his university biography. The biography also notes: “The senior captain helped guide the Eagles to the program’s first NAC Championship and berth to the NCAA DIII National Championship tournament in 2009, while being named the NAC Tournament MVP, and two NAC Regular Season Titles in 2007 and 2009 and a NAC Runner-Up finish in 2007.”

He earned National Association of Basketball Coaches Honors Court in 2009 and 2010, and ranks among Husson’s all-time career leaders in free throws attempted (446), field goal percentage (.572), field goals made (539), blocks, blocked shots average and points, per the university biography. 

As an eight year member of the women’s basketball coaching staff, MacKenzie has accumulated an assistant coaching record of 154-93 (.623) with five North Atlantic Conference (NAC) championships, three NAC regular season championships and five NCAA Division III tournament appearances. 

“After my playing career, I knew I wanted to be involved in the game of basketball in some way,” MacKenzie said about his decision to become a coach. “With my degree in education, I thought the best path for me to stay involved would be to pursue a career in coaching.” 

In addition to his coaching duties at Husson, MacKenzie also spends his days as a full-time physical education teacher for the Bangor School Department and running his business, RESULTS Basketball.

How does he balance his many hats? 

“I constantly remind myself that family needs to always come first,” he said. “It’s important to try to find a balance, although that can sometimes difficult. The key for me is staying organized, and making the most out of my down time. My wife, Erin, is very supportive of what I do. With teaching, running my business (training players and running clinics) plus coaching on top of that, I’m in a gym over 60 hours a week. Without Erin’s support and willingness to deal with my crazy schedule, I wouldn’t be able to do it all.”

For any coach at any level and in any sport, there are parts that can be defined as the best part of the job and parts that are difficult. 

“I feel like my greatest strength and certainly my passion is in player development. I really enjoy using my background in Education to break down the fundamental skills (both basic and higher level) and teach them in a way that players can learn and understand how to improve,” MacKenzie said on the best aspect of being a coach. “On top of that, just sharing a common goal and taking steps along the way to achieve that is a lot of fun for me — especially when you’re able to get to the top and accomplish what you worked for all year long.”

“Coaching has its number of challenges, but I would say at the collegiate level, it is recruiting,” MacKenzie said about the most difficult aspect. “Husson is an NCAA Division III school, and we don’t offer athletic scholarships. It’s real important to find players that are going to be a good fit for our program both on and off the court — kids that are going to be invested in their academics just as much as they are athletics.

“Sometimes finding talented, high character kids that will be great assets to not only our basketball program, but the whole university can be difficult. However, we’ve had a lot of success lately and many of our best players have come from within the state of Maine.”

Speaking of recruiting and playing at the next level, MacKenzie provided some advice on how student-athletes should jump start their recruiting process at any school they are interested in. 

“First and foremost, if you want to play at the next level — you need to be very dedicated to your sport and really love playing, because it is a year-round commitment,” he said. “If you have that passion and desire, and feel like your talent could translate to the college level, I highly recommend reaching out to the coaching staff at the university you would like to attend. Their contact information can usually be found on the school’s athletic website. Some coaches may ask you for game schedules, film, statistics, etc. to help with the recruiting process, but it never hurts to advocate for yourself and open the lines of communication!”

What about advice for those considering becoming a coach? 

“No matter the level, it is important to understand that coaching is very rewarding — but success doesn’t come without hard work and sacrifice. Like any job, you need to be invested and when working with athletes, building trust and getting everybody to buy in to the philosophy of your program is so important.”

Reach George Harvey and the sports department at: sports@penbaypilot.com