OPRF head basketball coach Matt Maloney instructs Ka'Darryl Bell during a practice earlier this season.File 2010/J. GEIL

In just three seasons, OPRF head boys basketball coach Matt Maloney has drawn his share of supporters and created his share of detractors. Maloney, who has a career coaching record of 45-33 since taking over for Al Allen, coached this year’s team to a 10-13 overall record, which included an unceremonious six-game losing streak to close out the season. A few past and present parents have expressed some concerns about the coach’s philosophy and methods. We spoke with him last week about last season, this season, and the future of the program.

Which player got better over the course of the season, how and why?

All of the players improved in their own right. Jakari Cammon had great improvement on the defensive end. Gabe Levin made great strides in becoming a scorer and Ka’Darryl Bell showed great poise with being a marked man for the opposition.

What do you attribute the six-game losing streak at the end of the season to?

It is hard to pinpoint one area that led to the tough streak. We did not shoot the ball well and execute offensively. I take full responsibility for our poor execution. I have been watching tape all week and have spoken with coaches about our performance.

Do you temporarily bench players during games for missing a shot or making a bad pass, etc.? If so, did you do this frequently in the last few games of the season and why?

There are a variety of reasons for our substitution pattern. Most times, it is for match-ups or a change in defense. As of late, we substituted a player on certain dead ball situations for one of our defenses. While there were instances where players were taken out of the game for a poor decision, that was few and far between. In actuality, I had many coaches that thought I should have taken players out more often.

With the players you had this season, were you focused on getting them to follow the program’s style of play or did you base the style of play on the talent and skills of the players you had?

We tried to adapt the system to meet our players’ skills. I changed many of the offensive and defensive sets from last season. Having gone 22-6 last season, and losing eight of our top nine players, we attempted to modify our approach; however, I needed to make more adjustments to improve our quality of play. I am not married to one style of play, rather subscribe to the philosophy that programs should adapt to their players’ strengths.

Some parents from this season and last season have expressed concern over your coaching methods. How do you respond to that? What, if anything, has changed in your coaching style from last season?

I have a policy that parents can express concerns they have with me as long as their child is present for the meeting. I only had one meeting this season. Furthermore, I allow for any parent/guardian to attend any practice to watch our instruction and practice plans.

While I will continue to reflect on my coaching, I had people who were upset with playing time last season, not winning enough and other issues. I understand that there will always be critics, but the players know I will do anything to help them on the court and off.

In terms of changes, I have reflected on all facets of my coaching. I will continue to make changes and modifications that will help the program.

Are you enjoying the responsibilities that come with being the head basketball coach at OPRF?

I enjoy the process of helping our players improve academically and athletically. I am proud that we have resurrected the Village Tournament, created a newsletter, started a feeder program and created an academic adviser position for the program. Out of our 75 plus student-athletes in the program, we only had one “F” for the first semester. Furthermore, our program has a “B” grade point average over the past three seasons.

What are your priorities for the future of the program?

I want to continue to develop our athletes on the court and in the classroom. We want to continue to reach out to the youth in the community and develop their basketball skills and use that to enhance their academic performance and provide our athletes with life lessons that transcend the sport.

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Brad Spencer

Brad Spencer has been covering sports in and around Oak Park for more than a decade, which means the young athletes he once covered in high school are now out of college and at home living with their parents...

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