by Michael Vernetti
It was a lazy summer Thursday in Moraga, just right for meeting the Gaels’ new athletic director, Mike Matoso.
Introducing the former Stanislaus State (Turlock) AD and University of San Diego Senior Associate Athletic Director wrapped up a tidy three-month search headed by college President James A. Donahue and Gael alumnus and Board of Trustee member Peter Kelly (SMC ’67). Donahue had set a June 30 deadline for concluding the search, and Matoso accepted the post on that day.
For Matoso, leading Gael athletics continues a career path he started 18 years ago at San Diego, where he helped fund the Toreros’ glittering baseball facility, Fowler Park, ranked as one of the top five collegiate baseball facilities in the country. He made no secret of his glee over returning to the WCC after five years at Stanislaus State.
“My first college baseball game was at Saint Mary’s,” he recalled, and he repeatedly praised the WCC as unique for its top-caliber athletic programs and overall academic excellence. Matoso played baseball for Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, going all the way to the Division II College World Series, then began his athletic administration career in SLO.
He moved on to USC, where he served as academic advisor to the Trojan football teams, then started at San Diego. His last five years at Stanislaus State have been marked by continued fund-raising success and improvement in the university’s athletic performance, with 11 of 14 teams competing in the post season in 2016. One of his successes at San Diego caught the eye of President Donahue.
“He helped San Diego win the WCC Commissioners Cup — given to the top all-around athletic performer in the conference — for five consecutive years,” Donahue stressed, emphasizing the desirability of Saint Mary’s achieving that goal.
Unmet goals at SMC
Donahue did not put Matoso on the spot for completing two outstanding athletic facility improvements at Saint Mary’s — the baseball and basketball stadiums — but there was news concerning one of those projects. On hand for Matoso’s introduction was Lisa Moore, the college’s top fund-raiser.
Moore dispelled doubts among some sectors of the alumni that the long-awaited expansion of McKeon Pavilion has been delayed. The north wall of the gym will not come down this summer, as some had expected, but following completion of the 2017-18 basketball season instead. Knocking down the wall and extending the north end of McKeon will allow for some additional seating and addition of much-needed athletic training facilities.
Delaying the major part of the expansion was congruent with the desires of a key figure in McKeon’s future — basketball Coach Randy Bennett. According to Moore, Bennett preferred waiting to knock down the wall until next spring to minimize disruption of the basketball program. The entire construction project will take 11 months, Moore said, so it is more efficient to begin some tasks now and hold off on the heavy work. Site preparation is currently underway at McKeon, and construction will become part of daily life on the site until the expansion is complete in 2018.
Bits and pieces
It wouldn’t be an Athletic Department gathering without some news about Gael hoops. Among the tidbits tossed around by various coaches were:
— Kristers Zoricks is a stud. Despite his baby-faced appearance in videos, Zoricks is “ripped,”one coach said. The incoming freshman from Latvia by way of The Hampton School in New England is taller than he appears and will live up to the description as “a 6-4 Emmett Naar.” The consensus is he’s is going to be a “big” guard for the Gaels.
Zoricks tore his ACL around the turn of the year, so is a little more than six months into rehabilitation. Bennett said he may be ready to begin some “one on zero” training in the near future. That’s coach-speak for working out on his own.
— Quinn Clinton has impressed the coaching staff by his performance with the junior New Zealand national team in the FIBA U-19 World Cup underway in Cairo, Egypt. Clinton was the team’s top scorer heading into its final game yesterday, where he and the team played badly and were eliminated. Instant analysis of Clinton — great shooter.
— Bennett and Assistant Coach Marty Clarke are getting ready to head out on the recruiting trail, taking advantage of loosened restrictions recently approved by the NCAA. Bennett knows his 2018 recruiting class will be crucial with the graduation of stalwarts Jock Landale, Naar and Calvin Hermanson, plus the end of Cullen Neal’s one-year graduate season in Moraga.
Coach Bennett and new Athletic Director Mike Matoso got together at the ceremony to introduce Matoso to the college community. Photo courtesy of Tod Fierner.