Matt O’Brien is entering his 12th season as the Head Coach at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas. During his time with the Moundbuilders, O’Brien has developed a program based on winning and consistency. Some of his accolades include, 11 straight winning seasons, 2018 Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference Coach of the Year, 2019 Kansas Basketball Coaches Coach of the Year, three National Tournaments and two Sweet 16 appearances.
In his 11 years with the Moundbuilders, O’Brien has coached one NAIA Player of the Year, Cameron Hunt, in 2019, four NAIA All-Americans and 27 All-Conference selections. If you think his success with his team is all brawn and athletic prowess, think again! The success does not end on the court for Coach O’Brien as the Moundbuilders have seven Team Scholar Awards and a team GPA of 3.0 or above in eight of his 11 seasons.
Coach O’Brien got his start in coaching at a young age. He grew up watching his uncle, Jim O’Brien, coach at Boston College in the 80’s and Ohio State in the 90’s, which gave him an up close look at college coaching at a competitive level. During his time in college at Friends University, he was very involved with the basketball program and became the Head Coach of the junior varsity team his senior year.
“The experiences I gained gave me the opportunity to figure out how I wanted to coach without the pressure of wins and losses”, said O’Brien.
Coach O’Brien contributes a lot of his success to the people that surround the program year in and year out. Tim Miser is entering his 10th season as the Moundbuilders’ assistant, and the dynamic duo of O’Brien and Miser have welcomed a lot of student assistants and former players who have given back to the program in efforts vital to making a successful small college program. The Moundbuilders have also welcomed recruits with a strong work ethic who were seemingly under-valued along their way which helped fuel them to individual and team success. Through focus on hard work everyday, the Moundbuilders feel fortunate to have been able to build a strong culture driven by its work ethic.
“ During my time at Southwestern, I have learned that hard work and character wins”, said O’Brien. “We need to coach players that are humble enough to put the team above themselves and are willing to work hard on a daily basis. There are no shortcuts to success.”
With the uncertainty we are facing due to Covid-19, O’Brien credits the administration at Southwestern for navigating through the pandemic. Lock Schelle, the Athletic Trainer at Southwestern, has led the way with his willingness to serve and keep the students safe. O’Brien, along with head women’s coach, Whitney Corley, have been following guidelines that Coach Corley created. They spend a good portion of time following the protocols for checking into the gym and cleaning.
Coach O’Brien lists his favorite moment during his time with the Moundbuilders as winning the 2019 KCAC Tournament championship. The team had made four consecutive conference championship games, and this time the team’s resilience and determination to keep trying finally paid off.
“ Each year we love the challenge of trying to get our players to come together and play for one another”, O’Brien said. “There is no better feeling than watching the team you coach serve each other on and off the court.”
Be on the lookout for O’Brien and the Moundbuilders for another successful season during the 2020-2021 campaign.