The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

Inspiring confidence: Matt Brady’s approach as DePaul’s interim head coach

Jaydi Vasquez
Interim head coach Matt Brady looks on during DePaul’s matchup with Xavier Feb. 3, 2024, at Wintrust Arena. Brady took on the job in January after the departure of Tony Stubblefield.

Growing up in Haddon Heights, New Jersey, Matt Brady’s coaching aspirations began to flourish during his grade school years. Even at that age, he held a devoted belief in his future as a basketball head coach. 

He did not know then that this childhood dream would lead him to a distinguished 37-year career.

“When you get in this business, you don’t know if you’re going to have any level of success,” Brady told the DePaulia. “I’ve been really blessed and fortunate to have been exposed to a lot of different ways to run a basketball program.”

Brady’s coaching career spans 12 years, with successful spells at James Madison and Marist, marked by five 20-win seasons and two conference championships. Notably, during his tenure at Maryland under head coach Mark Turgeon, Brady contributed to the Terps’ 2020 Big Ten Championship title and the development of various All-Big Ten selections, NBA Draft picks and All-Conference players.

After Tony Stubblefield was relieved of his duties as head coach Jan. 22, Brady, who joined DePaul’s coaching staff last July, stepped into the interim head coach position, tasked with leading the team for the remainder of the season.

Once the decision was made to move on from Stubblefield, Vice President and Athletic Director DeWayne Peevy appointed Brady as the interim for the rest of the season. 

“For me, it was pretty simple because of the 12 years of head coaching experience that allowed the rest of the staff to be stable and stay in their same roles without a lot of change for our student-athletes,” Vice President and Athletic Director DeWayne Peevy said on the decision to promote Brady. “Bringing an outside person in was something I didn’t want to do.” 

Becoming the interim head coach for the remainder of the season wasn’t something Brady had foreseen after joining Stubblefield’s staff as a special assistant. His primary objective when he took the job was to bring his experience from successful programs to the table and provide assistance to the team in any way possible.

“I have a little bit of a reputation as a player development guy,” Brady said of why Stubblefield added him to his coaching staff. “I love being in the gym with the players. I’m grateful to be here at DePaul and love the school, love the city and love the basketball program’s potential.”                                   

For Brady, coaching goes beyond the scoreboard; it’s about the profound opportunity to make a lasting difference in his players’ lives. Throughout his career, he has remained dedicated to this principle and believes he has succeeded in making a meaningful impact.

“I’ve had an opportunity to do that [make an impact] because I hear from players I coached 30 years ago and I have emails from guys that I haven’t heard from in decades,” Brady said. “I think that speaks to my level of investment with kids on the court and their lives.”

The team currently holds a 3-20 record, and the downward trend appears to be continuing, especially with tough opponents like UConn, St. John’s and Marquette looming in the challenging Big East schedule ahead.

DePaul forward Da’Sean Nelson drives to the rim in a game against Xavier Feb. 3, 2024, at Wintrust Arena. Nelson played 21 minutes off the bench and scored nine points, hitting all seven free throw attempts. (Jaydi Vasquez)

Throughout this season, there has been a common perception of the team’s struggles with confidence on the court, particularly highlighted by a streak of 24 consecutive conference losses along with how lopsided the score of games have been. Brady told the DePaulia that he has been actively working to address and improve the team’s confidence and mental toughness on the court.

“Yeah, it’s a challenge, right?” Brady said of the team’s confidence levels through all the recent changes. “This is a group whose ego is already fragile and whose confidence is already broken a little bit. I’m doing everything I can to be really positive and proactive with our group to keep their spirits up.”

This season has brought change for the team, which is something sophomore guard Jaden Henley is accustomed to, having now experienced his third coach in just two collegiate seasons due to his transfer from Minnesota this past offseason.

“Coach Brady is obviously doing a great job,” Henley said of what it’s been like playing for Brady. “He’s kind of pushing us just to stay together. Keep pushing because the coaching change wasn’t ideal obviously. Just keep pushing hard every day and keep trying to get better.”

Brady sees plenty of positives in the roster and believes there are key players to build around. While he can’t completely shape the team to his vision, he’s focused on coaching and improving the team’s mental toughness and chemistry.

“I’ve really been trying to reach this team in an emotional way,” Brady said. “I’m trying to group both the individuals in the group as a whole to understand the importance of mental toughness, body language and trying to improve teamwork and the camaraderie with the group on and off the court.”

DePaul center Churchill Abass spins on the baseline in a game against Xavier Feb. 3, 2024, at Wintrust Arena. Abass scored 13 points to go along with nine rebounds. (Jaydi Vasquez)

Brady is unlikely to be considered for the full-time head coaching position, but he is not worried about it at the moment or its implications for his future. His main priority is providing support to the players, and understanding the challenges they face mentally with the ongoing losing streak and the departure of their head coach, who recruited them.

DePaul has often been portrayed as an unappealing destination due to its lack of competitiveness and coaching carousel over the last two decades, but Brady holds a different perspective. He sees numerous selling points and compelling reasons why the program has much to offer for the next head coach.

“There is a lot to love about the opportunity for the next head coach and the truth of the matter is they’re coming at a good time,” Brady said. “The program is in a tough spot in terms of wins and losses, the portal and NIL, but they’re going to have an amazing opportunity to make a very significant and long-standing mark on DePaul basketball history.”

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