MCDONALD — For the past 29 seasons, McDonald Blue Devils women’s basketball coach Tony Matisi has been one of the most successful school coaches in any division in Ohio.
His 30th season should produce a long-awaited historic win.
With 499 career wins, he has a 499-200 overall mark, a .714 winning percentage, 11 district titles, one regional championship and one state runner-up already etched on his ever-expanding resume, the Blues team Devils 2022-23 is ready to hand Matisi his 500th win as head coach.
It is a milestone that brings tears to your eyes as you remember the many players, coaches and administrators who provided their support to make this moment possible.
“Let’s set the record straight right now because this occasion wouldn’t happen if I didn’t have great players and dedicated coaches. They are a group that believed in our mission and the result when you work hard and are committed to the game,” Matisi said during a recent lunch. “In addition to talented players, I’ve also had squads with selfless players who understood the importance of off-season workouts that lay the foundation for in-season success. I had dedicated coaches eager to get started, ready to teach and convey our message and mission to the players.
“I have been blessed with both groups in my four practice stops because they made my job fun and easier every time we stepped onto the field, whether it was 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 the high school girls basketball coach in Lowellville, coaching the combined seventh and eighth grade teams. She was looking for help and she asked me to help her,” she added. “That was in 1980, and for the next eight years, after she stepped aside, I ended up coaching that group. It was a wonderful and important experience because we were the feeding system for LHS’s freshman, JV, and varsity programs.
“I learned something very special so early in my coaching career, and that is that lower grades were just as important, if not more so, in building a program.”
Matisi’s first head coaching job was at Ursuline High School, leading the Fighting Irish to an overall mark of 70-60 (.539) from 1992-1998.
From 1998 to 2013, he returned to his alma mater (he graduated from Lowellville High in 1975) and over the next 15 years led the Rockets to a 277-88 (.759) mark with eight league titles, seven district championships and two The regional subchampionship ends.
He remains the winningest coach of all time at LHS.
After the 2013 season, he moved to the South Range, where he spent six years leading the Raiders to a 113-40 (.739) mark with three district titles and a second-place finish.
The last two seasons have been arguably the most satisfying postseasons of Matisi’s coaching career, as he has led the Blue Devils to a 39-12 overall record (.765) with a district and regional crown and a state runner-up. the second in history. in the history of the MHS program.
“I am very proud of the 11 district titles, the girls who played a role in all the victories, and what we have been able to accomplish at all four schools,” Matisi said.
The Matisi name will continue to resonate in the Mahoning Valley for years to come as Tony’s three sons, John, Zach and Mike, also coach at the local school level.
John currently serves as the head girls coach at Springfield Local, Zach is his trusted assistant, while youngest son Mike is the head boys coach at Ravenna Southeast.
“I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am of your participation in the game,” Matisi said. “They grew up around basketball, they accompanied me to both practice and games and fully understood what it takes to develop a program. They are all doing well, and although they don’t trust their father too much anymore, they realize that I will always be there for them, if or when they need me.”
Matisi had a hard time remembering past historic wins, adding that wins No. 300 and 400 stand out.
“My 300th win came while I was in Lowellville, and we beat Warren JFK in double overtime for the district championship,” he recalled. “My 400th win was when I was at the South Range. That was against Jackson-Milton when we were both undefeated, so it 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 game all-time as head coach of the scholastic.
Tipoff is set for 6:15 p.m.