On Tuesday, July 23, former Jeffersonville basketball star and girls’ basketball coach Matt Pait was named to one of the most prestigious jobs in Jeffersonville — the head coach of the Jeff Red Devils’ boys’ basketball team.
Two days later, Pait sat down with sports editor Greg Mengelt to discuss his new job and the future of the Red Devil program for the News and Tribune’s “On the Spot” series. The following is Part 2 of that conversation.
• QUESTION: Let’s talk about you personally now. If everything goes well, what’s the dream scenario now for your career?
• PAIT: “The dream scenario is I and my staff can keep coaching this program for many years to come, have some continued success for the next five, 10, 15, 20 years. It’s a job that I do not plan on leaving. It’s my dream high school coaching job in my hometown. There wouldn’t be another job that I’d leave it for in high school coaching. My whole goal is to continue the success we’ve had in the past and make Jeffersonville proud of the product we put on the floor. I plan on being the coach for the foreseeable future. This is my job and I plan on doing the best I can to continue to put a quality product on the floor.”
• Q: Where would you rank Jeffersonville as a program in the Indiana basketball landscape?
• PAIT: “For me personally, it’s No. 1. But I think Jeffersonville is always a top-10 program in the state. It’s a job that, when it comes open, a lot of people look at it as one of the top-10 opportunities because we’re a big [Class] 4A school that’s had success. The players we’ve had come out of here speaks for itself.”
• Q: When your career ends, what do you want people in Jeffersonville to say about Matt Pait?
• PAIT: “I want to be remembered as someone who gave 100 percent to Jeffersonville High School, Jeffersonville basketball and did his best for the program. It’s not only about wins and losses. It’s about preparing the kids that come through the program to grow up and be young men that are going to be productive citizens. I think if my players can look at me and say, ‘He did the best for me at the time and prepared me to be a successful adult,’ then I’ve done my job.”
• Q: What is the 2013-14 Jeffersonville boys’ basketball team capable of achieving? What can we expect of the 2013-14 Red Devils?
• PAIT: “Well, we’re a ... if everybody comes out and we have a team that I expect to have ... we’re going to hopefully pick up right where we left off last year and continue winning a lot of games and continue our sectional and Hoosier Hills Conference winning streaks — and compete for a regional championship.”
• Q: You were pretty busy last year with the girls. How much attention did you pay to the world of Southern Indiana high school boys’ basketball, and who do you have your eye on as teams that have the ability to end those steaks?
• PAIT: “I was pretty heavily involved with the girls, and being my first year with the girls, I was getting up to speed. But I always kept my eyes on the boys and what was going on. I know Evansville Harrison has a lot returning. I know New Albany’s going to be better next year and Floyd Central, it will be interesting to see what they’re going to do with a new coach, but they’re going to be better. The conference is still strong. There are a lot of good teams in the conference, and the sectional is the same way. We always have our eye on New Albany. We’re going to have our eye on Evansville Harrison. We have to go there. That’s going to be a tough game on the road. We have [Evansville] Bosse to start the year and there are rumors about [JaQuan] Lyle going to a prep school. Whether he’s [at Bosse] or not, it’s going to be a tough game. The teams that are always tough to beat are still going to be around. I think New Albany’s always a big threat and the conference and sectional aren’t going to be easy to win. We have to concentrate on each one of those teams.”
• Q: How much control will you have over the schedule in the future?
• PAIT: “Truthfully, I can’t answer that right now. My guess is [new Jeff athletic director] Todd [Satterly] and I will work on that together. I will be able to tell Todd who I would like to schedule, and he’ll try to work that out. It will be a joint effort.”
• Q: What kind of balance would you like to see in your schedule? [Borden coach] Doc Nash told me he wanted to play Jeff in the past and Jeff wouldn’t schedule [the Braves]. Would you like to see the small local schools on your schedule, or would you prefer to play the bigger schools farther away? In your opinion, do bigger schools avoid the Borden- and the Clarksville-type schools for fear of embarrassment to lose to a small school?
• PAIT: “I don’t think it would be an embarrassment to lose to either of those teams. Clarksville is really good and Borden won the [Class A] state championship. I don’t care what size the school is. If you lose to a state champion, that’s not an embarrassment. I think with finances and transportation budgets the way they are, scheduling smaller local schools is a little bit more efficient. And I like it. It’s the way it used to be. The kids know each other, the fans know each other. I’m not a big fan of driving three hours away to play one game, anyway. I think we’ve got to play some of the Evansville schools because those are our regional opponents. But I would like to see some of the smaller local schools on our schedule. I think that is good for the communities and I think it’s good for attendance.”
• Q: What’s your biggest concern off the court?
• PAIT: “Off the court, it’s keeping our guys grades up, keeping our guys eligible. Not just eligible but making sure they have the grades to get into the college they want to go to. It’s my goal that every kid that is on the team that wants to play somewhere in college can find a place to play. They have to understand that academics plays a huge part in that. My biggest concern off the court directly related to the players is that we’ve got to do a good job of making sure that they make the grades to allow them to continue their basketball career if they want to.”
• Q: A lot of people would say that one of a keys to a winning program is the varsity head coach’s involvement with the young kids in the community. Are those relationships you already have, and if not, how much do you plan on establishing relationships with coaches at the elementary and middle school levels?
• PAIT: “I have a little bit of a relationship, but I plan on being much more involved with the elementary and middle schools, and hopefully we can develop our feeder programs. [Jeffersonville Youth Basketball League] and some of our AAU teams, I’d like to see our kids playing together more outside of their school’s basketball team. I really want to be as involved as I can in that and making sure that our middle schools are teaching our system, so when kids get to high school, it’s not as much as a learning curve.”
• Q: We touched on this a little earlier. Coaches have forced to become recruiters within their own schools. In the past, the top athletes in the school, especially at a place like Jeffersonville, were just going to play basketball. It was a given. How much will you recruit within the school, or is your attitude more, “If a kid wants to play, great; if not, that’s fine, too?”
• PAIT: “No, when I grew up, it was, ‘I can’t wait to play basketball for Jeff High.’ That was the No. 1 goal growing up and that was all you cared about. You weren’t looking at other high schools. Not just that, you weren’t concerned about picking one spot, you played everything. Times have changed a little bit, but I want to get the best basketball players out there. If I have to encourage them a a little bit, I’ll do that. But I would hope that as I’m here longer and continue to establish a winning program, it will be a program everyone wants to play for in Jeffersonville. And as kids grow up, they’ll want to play for us, want to play for Jeff High, so we don’t have to fight the recruiting battle with other programs. It’s just a different time. You’ve got to show kids that they’re wanted and they’re needed and I have no problem doing that if I need to.”
• Q: Thank you, Coach, and congratulations on your new job. Anything I didn’t bring up that you’d like to convey to our readers and Jeff basketball fans?
• PAIT: “Just ... I really enjoyed my time with the girls and I really appreciate everyone who was involved with the program that helped us out, and all of the girls for giving me 110 percent while we were there. I really can’t thank them enough for all they did for us and everything they gave for the program.”
NOTE: Part 1 of the Matt Pait “On the Spot” interview appeared in last weekend’s edition of the News and Tribune.