Husky assistant to lead girls basketball program next season
May 26, 2020 11:29AM
By Julie Slama
By Julie Slama | [email protected]
Matteo Dal Monte’s plan to lead Hillcrest Huskies girls basketball team includes hard practices.
“If we are engaged to practice as hard as we can, shooting before and after practice, and are competitive with every drill, then, we will be playing harder than we will in any game,” he said. “A lot of players graduated in region, which will leave it wide open, so if we prepare well, we have a shot of being in contention.”
Dal Monte was announced April 3 as the new head coach for the Hillcrest Huskies girls basketball team by Principal Greg Leavitt to the school community on YouTube to comply with COVID-19 social distancing.
“He has a calm, good demeanor and knows his basketball,” Leavitt said. “He knows the girls and has a good trajectory of where to take the team.”
Dal Monte grew up playing basketball.
“I’ve played since I was 5,” he said. “Ever since, I’ve deeply loved the game. In high school, I had the inkling I’ve wanted to coach, so I picked my coach’s brain to learn why he made his decisions. He was a genius with Xs and Os and incredibly smart to create the best system for the personnel.”
While he played at a Burbank, California high school, Dal Monte said he had an ankle injury that sidelined him senior year; he then watched several of his teammates go on to play professionally.
“I knew as a player, I was not good enough to cut it as a player past that level, so I started thinking what I’d do with the team in certain situations and why I’d make substitutions and how I’d approach the game,” he said.
At University of California Irvine, Dal Monte was the women’s collegiate team manager and video intern, and even worked with them as a practice player.
He also would play ball in the gym in pick-up games or with friends. When a group of friends got a female college club team together, they asked Dal Monte to coach.
“That gave me an opportunity to teach, motivate and inspire those players,” he said, about the club that formed in 2015 and has been playing since.
After that, Dal Monte went on to coach the men’s club team when it formed the year after. He has coached for various summer teams, clubs and was a training camp assistant for the LA Clippers.
Dal Monte joined the Hillcrest coaching team two years ago, serving as an assistant and this past season, coaching the sophomore team. He said he appreciated the instruction and opportunity to coach alongside coach Anthony Alford and coach Devin Olenick, who stepped down from the head coaching position after this past season to reunite with his family on the East Coast.
“I’m really proud of the progression of the freshmen and sophomores on the sophomore team,” Dal Monte said. “They struggled at the start, but they practiced and learned and asked how they could get better. They learned to be accountable and responded to working hard to improve. They played with the older group, who learned to be role models, communicate and be leaders and they learned not to think individually, but as a team with that mentality,” he said.
Dal Monte also helped coach JV and varsity, and used the opportunity to highlight a varsity, JV or sophomore player each game with the Determination Over Negativity or DON (in honor of Utah Jazz player Donovan Mitchell) award. He would share how the player impacted the team to build leadership and camaraderie amongst the team.
“It was a fun way that the players loved to highlight positivity,” he said.
While coaching this past year, Dal Monte has been working with children who have behavioral concerns at nearby Bell View Elementary, so he is new to being at Hillcrest as part of the faculty and staff and is learning what resources are available to help his athletes be successful students.
“We’ll communicate with teachers and players where the student-athletes need to be at and use what resources are available to them to maximize their studying,” he said.
Since being named head coach, Dal Monte already has communicated and offered drills with his players over Zoom, he hopes to get to play in tournaments and in a summer league for his team as well as for incoming players.
“I’d like to establish the groundwork and expectations so they can carry that themselves as Hillcrest High basketball players and compete in every game. Last year, we (varsity with a record of 6-8 in region) upset Highland (who later won the state championship) and turned some heads. We can show Hillcrest can play basketball,” he said, adding that providing a feeder system will help to sustain the success of the program.
While Dal Monte has the ultimate goal of coaching professionally, he loves helping this age group grow on and off the court.
“Basketball is a good mini-trial run for life and coaching is my language,” he said. “As players, they’re coming into preparing to be successful adults and will experience adversity, but will need to be able to communicate, build relationships, compete with heart and soul about whatever is their passion and have confidence in themselves. They can use the game to learn life lessons to achieve success.”