MCDONALD — For the past 29 seasons, McDonald Blue Devils girls basketball coach Tony Matisi has been one of the most successful scholastic coaches in any division in Ohio.
His 30th season should yield a much-anticipated milestone victory.
With 499 career wins — he is 499-200 overall, a .714 winning percentage — 11 district titles, a regional championship and state runner-up finish already etched on his ever expanding resume, the 2022-23 Blue Devils’ squad is poised to deliver Matisi his 500th head coaching victory.
It is a milestone that makes him teary-eyed when reminiscing about the many players, coaches and administrators who lent their support to make this moment possible.
“Let’s set the record straight right now because this occasion does not happen if I didn’t have great, dedicated players and coaches. They are a group that believed in our mission and the result when hard work occurs and you are committed to the game,” Matisi said during a recent luncheon. “In addition to talented players, I have also had squads with unselfish role players who understood the importance of off-season workouts that set the foundation for in-season success. I had dedicated coaches chomping at the bit to get started, ready to teach and convey our message and mission to the players.
“I have been blessed with both groups at all four of my coaching stops because they made my job fun and easier every time we stepped onto the court, be it for practice or a game,” Matisi said.
Matisi can thank his wife, Laraine, a teacher in the Lowellville School System, for such a meteoric rise to the top of his coaching profession.
“My wife was named junior high girls basketball coach at Lowellville, coaching the combined seventh and eighth grade teams. She was looking for help and asked me to assist her,” he added. “That was 1980, and for the next eight years, after she stepped aside, I ended up coaching that group. It was a wonderful experience and important because we were the feeder system to the LHS ninth grade, JV and varsity programs.
“I learned something very special so early in my coaching career, and that was the lower grades were just as important, if not more so, in building a program.”
Matisi’s first head coaching position was at Ursuline High School, leading the Fighting Irish to a 70-60 (.539) overall mark from 1992-98.
From 1998-2013, he returned to his alma mater – he is a 1975 graduate of Lowellville High – and over the next 15 years led the Rockets to a 277-88 (.759) mark with eight league titles, seven district championships and two regional runner-up finishes.
He remains the all-time winningest coach at LHS.
After the 2013 season, he moved over to South Range, where he spent six years, leading the Raiders to a 113-40 (.739) ledger with three district titles and a runner-up finish.
The past two seasons have been arguably the most fulfilling postseasons in Matisi’s coaching career, as he has led the Blue Devils to a 39-12 (.765) overall record with a district and regional crown and state runner-up finish, the second ever in MHS program history.
“I am most proud of the 11 district titles, the young ladies who played a part in all the wins and what we have been able to accomplish at all four schools,” Matisi said.
The Matisi name should continue resonating throughout the Mahoning Valley for years to come as Tony’s three sons — John, Zach and Mike — also are coaching at the local scholastic level.
John currently serves as head girl’s coach at Springfield Local, Zach is his trusted assistant while youngest son, Mike, is the head boys coach at Ravenna Southeast.
“I cannot begin to tell you how proud I am of their involvement in the game,” Matisi said. “They grew up around basketball, tagged along with me to both practice and games and fully understand what it takes to develop a program. Each one is doing well, and while they do not rely on their father too much anymore, they fully realize that I will always be there for them, if or when they need me.”
Matisi had a tough time recalling previous milestone victories, adding wins No. 300 and 400 do stick out.
“My 300th win came while I was at Lowellville, and we defeated Warren JFK in double overtime for the district championship,” he recalled. “My 400th win was when I was at South Range. That came against Jackson-Milton when we were both undefeated so that was an incredibly special win as well.”
The Blue Devils open their season tonight at home against Windham, a game that will also be a milestone for Matisi, his 700th all-time game as a scholastic head coach.
Tipoff is set for 6:15 p.m.
Today’s breaking news and more in your inbox
Leave a Reply