June 26, 2012
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – Matt Daniel should not be mistaken for Kermit the Frog.
Daniel, the Marshall women’s basketball coach, finds it easy being green … Kelly green.
One day, he walks down the halls of the Henderson Center office sporting bright green tennis shoes. The next day, he’s wearing plaid Bermuda shorts … and the color in the scheme screaming loudest is the green.
He’s even asked to have the door to the Thundering Herd women’s hoops offices painted “a loud green, kind of electric,” Daniel said.
So far, the door is closed on that one … but it seems the 35-year-old Marshall coach of one month (he was named May 29) won’t be an easy cave-in on much of that type of thing.
“We’re going to wear stuff that stands out because that’s what we have to do … in order to make a name for yourself, people have to see the name and that’s what we’re going to try and do,” said Daniel, who came to MU after big success while coping with an NCAA divisional transition at Central Arkansas. “We’re going to stand out as loud as we can and try to build a program.
“There are two things we won’t do. We won’t do anything illegal, and we won’t do anything immoral. That’s our intention. Now, we’ll make mistakes I’m sure, as everybody does, but our heart will always be in the right place with the big picture of Marshall in mind.
“We have to learn how to push the envelope. We have to learn what we can and can’t do. We want blips on the radar. If you’re a coach and trying to flip a program, you want to rock the boat.
“You want to press and press, and stretch and push and things of that nature, so it’s just trying to figure out how to do that within the parameters of the belief system here at Marshall and in Huntington.”
His office is still in disarray, books stacked high on the desk. Wall hangings rest on floors, against the walls. The hire of a third assistant coach -- the first time he will have had a third aide – remains a work in progress.
His 2012-13 team is set, 13 players, but only eight of them are on campus this summer, and “it’s hard to lay a foundation for what your belief system is in the middle of June when only half of your squad is here,” he said.
Daniel has two scholarships available, but “I’m not interested in filling a void with a void,” he said. “I’m not interested in just filling up space. It’s awfully late, if somebody’s available right now, there’s usually a reason for it. If flood gates or the heavens were to open and someone was sent to us … I’m just not interested in wasting Marshall’s money or anyone’s time.”
In terms of our local approach, we’ve already had several conversations in West Virginia and we’re going to recruit this area, and our efforts will be focused in the right manner.”
An Arkansas native, the former UCA coach was asked to compare his home state with his new place of residence in high school girls basketball, considering both states are primarily rural (although Arkansas has about 1.1 million more in population than the Mountain State).
“I don’t think it’s fair for me to say without seeing a season of it up close and personal,” Daniel said of West Virginia girls’ hoops and whether the level of talent could help his Herd. “But looking it at from the outside, where I was, I think it’s similar (to Arkansas).
“The difference is we were in the Southland Conference and now we’re in Conference USA. Obviously, with the increase in level of competition and talent, I don’t know if I’m a fair judge to answer that correctly. Any answer I’d give now is only best guess.
“I do think there are definitely girls in West Virginia who can help Marshall with what we want to do, but more importantly, they have to fit our program, our belief system; that’s kind of where we’ve made our niche.
“We’ve recruited a kid because we believed in a kid, not necessarily that anyone else was recruiting them, whether it was a nationwide recruit or no one else (wanted her) at all.
With the style we play that’s unique, and the things we do that are a little off-center, we’re looking for the right kid.”
Much was made of Daniel’s “Home of Higher Hoops” philosophy on the afternoon he was introduced to Marshall in the Hartley Room of the Henderson Center.
He knows there will be doubters and those who consider his philosophy as nothing more than driftwood floating down the Ohio River.
The new coach also knows that if he can spin it the right way and significantly boost a program stuck in neutral – the MU women’s basketball all-time record is 581-581, seriously – it will be the Herd Home of Higher Hoops.
“It’s just a belief system,” Daniel said of his tenets, not unlike those of other coaches, including the late, legendary John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success. “I’ve lived in a lot of houses. I’m the son of a coach and I’ve traveled the country coaching, men and women, all over, all ranges, and there’s no place I’ve been that I’m as comfortable as on that floor. So, it’s kind of been my home, so to speak, since I was baby. I was raised in a gym and basketball was my babysitter.
“I’m just trying to instill, not really my belief, but I want the players to see that they can develop their own belief system, that it’s OK to go out on a limb and stand for your beliefs and put them down on paper and expose them. That’s really where it stems from and where I would like it to go. Now, where it goes, I don’t know; it’s all open to interpretation.
“It can look like a whole bunch of cliches, but I think the more people get to know me and the more someone is around me and takes the time to figure out what we’re all about, they can see how genuine it is.
“Hopefully through time, people will see our hearts and efforts are in the right place and we can grow our brand and continue to push the envelope.”