For this week’s installment of my #LiveMaas blog, we will be focusing on Leadership in Athletics. In an effort to bring the best content possible to my readers, I am excited to interview the University of North Florida’s Head Men’s Basketball Coach, Matthew Driscoll.
📱 904-383-2786 🐤 @UNFBBALL 💻 M.Driscoll@unf.edu
The Pittsburgh, Pa., native’s basketball coaching experience began in 1988 when he served as the head coach of his high school alma mater – Northgate High School. He served in that role from 1988-90 before stops at Butler County Community College and Seneca Valley High School, where he served as an assistant coach at both schools. From 1993-97 Coach Driscoll served as the head coach at LaRoche College in Pittsburgh.
After assistant coaching stops at Wyoming, Clemson, Valpo and Baylor – He arrived at UNF in the Spring of 2009 where his leadership and vision led to the program’s first Atlantic Sun Conference regular season title. His team then advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in university history, after claiming the ASUN Tournament crown in 2015. The Ospreys finished the year setting records in win totals overall and in conference play, while also ending the season ranked 20th in the CollegeInsider.com Top 25 Mid-Major poll. His success continued in 2016 as UNF captured back-to-back ASUN regular season titles and participated in a second straight national postseason tournament, hosting Florida in the opening round of the NIT.
You might have gotten to know Coach Driscoll through one of his viral clips:
(Due to time, we will condense the text portion of the interview while providing the entire audio link below.)
WM: I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am to get started – so, Coach – Welcome, and Thank you so much for taking the time to visit today.
- WM: How do you define your leadership style?
MD: There are so many ways to define your leadership style. I would say mine is truly a servant leadership. We (UNF Basketball) really believe, and have always believed, in being a solider in the army and that many hands make light work. The greatest gift in life is the gift of giving. Every single day, whenever I awake, the great thing is there is no dirt on top of you, so that’s a good thing. I always make sure that I am trying to make a difference in someone’s life by just treating people the way you want to be treated. We go about that on a daily basis, and I think when people see it – whether adults or your players or young people – they see you walk, they see you talk and can see what you are about.
One thing my dad always taught me when I was young. No matter what you do, our Last Name is always on it. Just remember, you are representing our family. That stuck with me my entire life. That is probably what helped create that entire idea of being a servant leader. I take this very seriously. And I take my responsibility and accountability to it seriously as well. I believe every single day we can make a difference in someone’s life.
- WM: You have played a major role in the rebuilding of several programs as an assistant coach. As a head coach, you have lead UNF to unprecedented success. Can you describe your vision for building a program?
MD: To me, there are five cores (five building blocks, five pillars, five key things).
Vision. If you think of it as a staircase, when you are standing on the bottom and you are talking about vision or where you want to go. To me, the difference between great and good – in order to do that, a lot of leaders will stare with their eyes up the steps. That (direction) is where we are going. What separates the great ones is they step up the stairs. They literally take those steps. What Coach Matta (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thad_Matta) taught me was to celebrate those small victories. Understand the importance of those moments as you are growing and your culture is becoming what you want it to be.
Courage. You can really separate leaders here. You have to have courage to let people go. Once you do make big decisions, you don’t bring in someone (to your organization) that has similar characteristics because you will be back in the same place. Even when things are flowing well and everything is going in the right direction, you are still going to have hiccups, obstacles and setbacks. There are three to five surprises that are going to happen every single day that you did not know about. You have to have that courage as a leader to understand and help maintain.
Passion. We (UNF Basketball) want you to be all that you can be. We pour into our students, and deposit passion into them, and we are passionate about these guys being as great as they want to be. The by product of this is we are going to win. Because we are going to have great players, who are really developed, who understand our culture, who understand that the greatest thing in life is to love one another – and that GOOD BETTER BEST should never rest until your good is better and your better is best. When you pour all of that into your guys, you win. Don’t be passionate about going to your job. Because if you do, it is your job – and a job becomes mundane and then you become complacent. You have to be passionate about making a difference every day.
People Skills. Probably one of our great deficiencies in America. Because of technology, we become less efficient in communicating. I think we recognize that as human beings, but I think we have to continue to grow on that with our guys. The one thing we use with our guys, the more genuine you are – the easier your people skills will be. When you are genuine, you aren’t afraid to communicate – stop communication – redirect communication and that you know how to do it; how to do it politely and how to do it in the right manner.
Trust. There is no doubt, every person in the world wants to know they can trust you. It is not even close. Trust is the #1, most important thing there is in your life. The best example of trust has to be this. How does a 6’11”, 245 pound, 7’5” wingspan (student) of Nigerian descent trust a 5’8”, half Irish – half German, shorter arms than any alligator than you would find in any lake; how would he trust this guy to make him as great as he could possibly be to the point where he says, “Coach, I’m paying your expenses because you are coming to the NBA draft because I want you to watch me become a lottery pick”. There was a trust factor there. He knew I cared more about his heart than I did anything else. http://www.baylorbears.com/sports/m-baskbl/mtt/udoh_ekpe00.html
- WM. What specific ways do you try and achieve work / life balance?
MD. I remember when I was young in the business, Coach Shyatt (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Shyatt) who is with the Dallas Mavericks now, told me that any time you are out you are always on. I missed, early in my career, my boys. More than I ever wanted to miss. When I could, I tried to take them to school every day. I tried to be at anything and everything I could be at when I was in town. I would read to the kids at night, then go back to the office. I was getting older and I was getting more mature. It is as great as a necessity that I pour into them, so the guys see how important that is too. Coach Drew (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_Drew) really helped me to understand that as a leader, moving forward – that if you have balance, then your staff will have balance. I think that when we demonstrate balance, then like everything else, people understand it better. Do what you are supposed to do to the best of your ability. Less Quick is better than More Slow. My point is, just because you are doing more does not mean you are achieving anything. It just means you are extremely active. I think balance is very hard to do, and we don’t always have it. We fail at it more that we want to admit. Failure is never final, and you always have to make sure that when you get out of balance that you recognize it and then correct it.
- WM. In your experience, what are the common mistakes young professionals make?
MD. I think number one, and foremost, is (thinking) how fast they can get to the top. Everybody in this day in age wants to throw it in a microwave, hit 130 and boom – its ready. Players want to do that too. Young professionals do not realize that all of the experiences, all of the grind that lead to the evolution of … something … that they didn’t realize that (the grind) was going to lead to. All those synopsis that take place in their growth is so critical for them to eventually get to where they want to get to. Coach Shyatt taught me early on in my career that information is the most important commodity that there is in the world. If you do not have all of the facts, you can never make a true decision on whatever it is. Information is your #1 commodity.
MD. My cell phone number is 904.383.2786. I prefer a text. Make sure you include your name. If there is anything I can help you (the audience) with, or anything I can send you. @UNFBBALL is my twitter handle. I would love to help anybody I can. The one thing we have to understand is that this life is extremely short, and this world is extremely small. You better treat people like you want to be treated.
That is going to end our Chat today! Thank you to Coach Matthew Driscoll on taking the time out of his schedule, and please be sure to follow along with my blog at www.LiveMaas.wordpress.com
📱 307-223-6429 🐤 @WesDMaas 💻 Wmaas@fiu.edu
Editors Note: In my introduction, I stated that Coach Driscoll’s team then advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in university history, after claiming the ASUN Tournament crown in 2014. This should state 2015. Also; His success continued in 2015 as UNF captured back-to-back ASUN regular season titles and participated in a second straight national postseason tournament, hosting University of North Florida in the opening round of the NIT. This should state 2016, and hosting The University of Florida.