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Davidson's Matheny hired as new men's head basketball coach

As Matt Matheny took the podium to be introduced as the new men's basketball coach, an eruption of applause filled the Atkins room in the Koury Athletic center Sunday afternoon.

by Pam Richter,
  • Elon athletic director Dave Blank (right) introduces new men’s basketball coach, Matt Matheny on Sunday during a press conference. Matheny was a former assistant coach at Davidson for 16 seasons. (Photo by Angie Lovelace)

As Matt Matheny took the podium to be introduced as the new men's basketball coach, an eruption of applause filled the Atkins room in the Koury Athletic center Sunday afternoon.

He shook Elon athletic director Dave Blank's hand then stood and received a standing ovation from the packed room.

Elon fans were excited and so was Matheny, who was wearing the maroon and gold in his tie and an Elon Phoenix pin.

"It took two minutes for me to get excited about this," Matheny said. "There's something special going on here."

On Sunday, Elon University announced the hiring of Matheny as the new head men's basketball coach. He became the 17th head coach in program history. The announcement came 20 days after former head coach Ernie Nestor was released.

During his Elon career, Nestor compiled a 67-117 record at Elon over six seasons.

"We were looking for someone who is committed to the importance of the co-existence of athletic and academic excellence, who has been in that environment and would understand what we need to do here at Elon University to maintain integrity in both areas," Elon athletic director, Dave Blank, said.

Matheny, 39, was named the associate head coach of the Davidson University Wildcats in 2003. This past season marked his 16th season on the Davidson coaching staff under Bob McKillop.

"When I stepped foot on campus, it felt like home," Matheny said.

During his time at Davidson, Matheny experienced much success. The Wildcats won nine out of the last 13 Southern Conference division championships.

"I'm excited about this. Matt is the right person for the job," Blank said.

With spring break this past week at the university, the players were not able to meet the head coach before his hiring was officially announced.

"I met with the players from last season and they were really confident that I know them and would make the right choice," Blank said.

This was Blank's biggest hire in three years at the university. Blank previously hired a new women's basketball coach, men and women's cross country coach, women's soccer coach and women's track coach.

Last year, Blank hired women's basketball coach Karen Barefoot to replace former coach Brenda Paul.

The team has its first meeting Sunday night. This will be the first chance for players to meet with Matheny.

"I'm really excited," sophomore guard Chris Long said. "I think he'll be a great fit."

In addition to success on the court, Matheny said he is committed to helping the athletes succeed off the court and in the classroom. During his time at Davidson, Matheny's players had a 100 percent graduation rate.

"Our program is going to revolve around student-athletes," Matheny said. "Our mission is to give our student-athletes a wonderful college experience. That's our mission. We are going to prepare these young men for life after Elon."

In the 2008-2009 season, Nestor coached the Phoenix to an overall record of 11-20 and a 7-13 record in the Southern Conference. The Phoenix lost a one point game to UT Chattanooga in the conference tournament semi-finals.

Matheny said he has some big goals in mind for this team. An Elon team in the 2007-2008 lost to his former team, Davidson in the Southern Conference tournament finals game.

"We want to go the NCAA Tournament. That's a goal of ours. Our everyday goal is to get better. We're going to have a lot of fun," the new head coach said.

During the press conference, Matheny called himself an attacking coach.

"What I like to do is run and take good shots, not just run it and throw it," Matheny said.

Junior guard, Devan Carter, shares Matheny's excitement with this style of play.

"When I heard that I lit up like a Christmas tree," Carter said. "It's exciting to hear. I had a big smile on my face. We tried to do that a little bit more at the end of last season and it seemed to work well."

Matheny graduated from Davidson in 1992. During his time at the college, he played basketball and football for the university.
He grew up in Statesville, N.C. and graduated from North Iredell High School.