It was the only job that she applied for.
When Laura Matthews found out that the Belmont head coaching position was open, it almost seemed too good to be true. A Nashville native with family still in the city, it was the first real glimmer of hope since her program at Wright State had been unceremoniously eliminated earlier in the summer.
After the shocking news that the Wright State program was being cut, Matthews said she went through most of the five stages of grief, only luckily avoiding the denial phase. Once things began to settle in, though, her focus centered on helping her players and recruits find new homes.
“I really didn’t think much about what I was going to do next,” Matthews said. “I was just focused on my players finding new homes where they could thrive.”
Even in the midst of a pandemic, there have been a plethora of jobs on the coaching carousel this summer. Matthews never put her name in the running for any of them, though, at least not until Belmont opened. The chance to go home was too great of an opportunity to pass up.
“My whole family is in Nashville,” Matthews said recently. “That’s the exciting part. My parents, grandparents, siblings, my niece… everyone is here, and they really might even be more excited than I am. [When the Belmont job opened], I just kind of stared at the posting for a little bit. My initial thought was ‘I can’t believe this could really happen.’ Then I had to make sure that I put my best foot forward during the process.”
While that very hiring process waned on, Matthews hesitated to let herself get too excited about the prospect that the job could wind up being hers, deliberately not allowing herself to consider the “what ifs” that could lie in store. “I tried to stay even-keeled through the process, because you never know, but I’m not sure that I was exactly successful,” she recalled with a chuckle. “My hopes were up pretty early on.”
On July 20th, Matthews was announced as the Bruins’ new head coach. As she now takes over a program that has had a number of ups and downs over the last few seasons, the veteran coach says she is ready for the challenge.
“It’s a program that has gone through a bit of change, but right now, you’ve also got a situation where you’re not sure what the formula is going to look like, or what the spring season is going to look like,” Matthews noted. “But there’s something about that to me; one thing that I think everybody has to have learned since March is to roll with the punches… Now at Belmont, we get to go in and catch up with the kids that we do have – and they seem like a really, really wonderful group of women from the interaction that I’ve had with them so far. I went through a coaching change as a player, and it can be pretty stressful, so I’m trying not to go in with a mindset of ‘if we win this many games, et cetera’ because I think the worst thing that we might do this season is have a preconceived notion of who somebody is as a player.”
During their search process, Belmont was said to prioritize finding a coach that would be around a while and put down roots in Nashville. If Matthews has her way, that will certainly be the case.
“This is an institution full of really good people,” Matthews said. “A lot of the people in the department, if you look, have been here fifteen or twenty years; it’s just a place where it seems like people love to work. I want to be able to get to the point where we’re consistent winners, and you can’t do that in a ‘pit stop’ at this program or that program. This job, this city has so many selling points… there’s so much that you can build a program on.”