NCAA Champion Matt Gray: The next great Canadian Coach

by | May 23, 2022 | NCAA Basketball

  1. Where are you from and how did you get started with basketball?

Born and raised in Mississauga, Ontario. I grew up as a coach’s son so I always tell people that I was born with a basketball in my hands. My Dad spent two years as the president of the Mississauga Monarchs and he coached all of my youth OBA teams. He really influenced my passion for the game. 

  1. What players did you look up to growing up?

My all-time favorite player is Steve Nash. I loved his playmaking skills and his ability to get his teammates involved. The career he made for himself after only receiving one D1 offer out of high school was inspiring to a lot of young Canadians like myself. I probably threw too many no-look passes as a kid because of him. 

  1. What went into the transition from a player to a player development coach?

I faced a lot of injuries from my junior year of high school onwards. I spent so much time sitting out that I could never find any rhythm or confidence whenever I’d return from an injury. I ended up calling it quits after playing one season at the University of Waterloo. After one full year away from basketball, I realized how much I needed it in my life, and thankfully, Coach Gunter gave me an opportunity to join the Waterloo staff as a Player Development Coach. Although I didn’t have much experience, Gunter gave me a lot of freedom to run workouts during the day and I learned through trial and error. I got a good response from the players and that gave me confidence to continue pursuing coaching/player development. 

  1. How did you go from a development coach to a grad assistant, what went into that process?

I didn’t know much about the Graduate Assistant route until my final year at Waterloo when I started researching it. I contacted my friends who played at the Division 1 level to see if they could put me in touch with any staff members to inquire about potential opportunities. Brady Heslip put me in touch with the Baylor staff, and after a few interviews and getting accepted into one of their graduate programs, I was fortunate enough to receive an opportunity with them. 

  1. You are an NCAA national champion who played a big role in the development in some of this year’s rookie class, detail some of the work that goes into becoming an NCAA champion?

I remember when I first got to campus, two second year GAs, Rem Bakamus and Peyton Prudhomme, told me that the GAs wake up at 4am every morning to lift and get work done for the staff. I started to wonder what the grind looked like for everyone else if the GAs were doing all that. After a few days, I was watching Davion Mitchell work out twice a day outside of practice and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua play 1v1 with our guards for 30 minutes straight so he could become more switchable on defense. Those are just a few examples that come to mind. It was a special culture to be a part of because everyone worked extremely hard to be a star in their role. 

  1. A lot of players have talent, but what is the biggest difference between guys like Davion Mitchell and Jared Butler, what makes them Elite?

Those guys have a variety of different traits that make them special, but two intangibles that stood out were their obsession to constantly improve and their competitiveness. They lived in the gym and were constantly seeking out film and information to give themselves a competitive advantage. Their ability to buy in and play unselfishly with one another really helped us be successful. I always loved when Coach Jakus made the guards play 1v1 – probablythemost entertaining 1s I’ve ever watched. 

  1. You’ve achieved a lot of success as a coach, most people would be focused on simultaneously building a brand on social media, why haven’t you done that? Is it intentional ? 

I actually branded myself and had an Instagram page devoted to my training when I first started doing player development. I ended up deleting it because I figured if I did a good enough job the results would speak for themselves and word of mouth would help my reputation more than an Instagram page would. With that being said, there are a ton of great trainers who use Instagram to promote themselves and I understand the value in doing so. I probably wouldn’t have made some of the connections I have today if I didn’t start out on social media promoting my work. 

  1. Mentors are a big part of people’s success, is there anyone who’s inspired you and helped you get to where you are today?

Nate Mitchell. Nate’s player development resume is pretty extensive, and he’s helped a lot of people within the Canada basketball community. He took me under his wing after my first year of coaching at Waterloo and allowed me to shadow his workouts during the summer of 2018. Nate instilled confidence in me as a young coach and helped me understand the process of developing players. Through him, I met a lot of influential people in the Toronto basketball scene and have been able to learn from a lot of great basketball minds over these past few years. He has inspired me to continue to grow the game and help others. 

  1. How was your first season at Boston College ?

I really enjoyed it. Coach Grant is a phenomenal leader and he really got our players to buy into his gritty style of play. I don’t think any pre-season prediction had us finishing anywhere other than last place in the ACC and we ended up surprising a lot of people. I’m looking forward to next year and the future of this program. 

  1. To the kids looking to follow in your footsteps, what would be your biggest piece of advice?

I would tell them to value the relationships that they make along the way. The game of basketball allows you to meet so many people from different walks of life and those connections you make will last a lifetime. You never know what those relationships might lead to whether it’s somebody becoming your best friend or a reference on your resume. If you’re good to people, good things will happen.