If you google ‘Matt Malloy USF’ or ‘Matt Malloy basketball’, the first thing that pops up isn’t a story on Malloy’s exploits as a dynamo point guard for the Cougars. It’s a three-year old story detailing Malloy’s arrest, along with teammate Eric Tisby, for an altercation in the early morning hours of Jan. 28, 2011 at a Sioux Falls convenience store.
Tisby was charged with assault. Malloy was charged with drunk driving. They were the two leading scorers on one of the best men’s basketball teams in NAIA that year, but never played again after the incident. Both pled guilty and received two years of probation.
It was an ugly way for both men’s careers to end, Tisby the far-from-home transfer from Texas (who now plays pro basketball overseas), Malloy the archetypical All-American boy from a prominent sports family who had been South Dakota’s Mr. Basketball and the Class A Spirit of Su winner as a senior in high school for Parkston.
It cast a dim pall over the Cougars’ season, added years to the life of head coach Chris Johnson, and severely damaged the reputation of two young men.
Even missing half of his senior year, Malloy remains one of the Cougars’ all-time greats. He’s fourth on the all-time scoring list with 1,698 points, and might’ve had an outside shot of catching Gayle Hoover for the top spot had he not been suspended.
He wasn’t only one of the best players the Cougars ever had, he was one of the most memorable. He was cocky, outspoken and fearless. He was 5-foot-9 (allegedly) and could dunk. He argued with referees and occasionally his coaches, and while no area college player this side of Josh Mueller was ever the target of as much taunting from fans as Malloy, he never backed down from giving it back to them (for better or worse).
That made Malloy perhaps the most hated player in the GPAC, and when he was arrested and suspended, scores of fans took pleasure in witnessing his fall from grace. (Photo by Emily Luikens)
After his suspension, Malloy quietly joined the Cougar baseball team — though he did not appear in any games — and finished his schooling, earning his degree that spring.
I kept in touch with Matt after he left school, and he expressed to me more than once his fear of what effect the scandal might have on his future. He wanted to get into teaching and coaching, and I remember him telling me once that he wondered if he’d eventually have to move away, which he didn’t want to do.
But he didn’t go into hiding, either, continuing to play amateur baseball in his hometown of Parkston, showing up at area sporting events, and maintaining his caustic sense of humor.
All Malloy needed was for someone to take a chance on him, and that person turned out to be Gayville-Volin superintendent Jason Selchert.
After a year as an assistant girls basketball coach, Malloy is now the head varsity girls coach and Kindergarten teacher during the day. Yes, Kindergarten.
In his first year on the Raider sidelines, Malloy — who turned 26 on Wednesday — has made quite an impact, leading them to (so far) a 13-7 record and the 10B District championship, following Tuesday’s big upset of top-seeded Viborg-Hurley. Despite no head coaching experience, Malloy has made himself a Coach of the Year candidate as a rookie.
The Raiders were just 4-14 a year ago, and haven’t played in a District championship since Ronald Reagan was President.
They take on Alcester-Hudson tonight in Tea with a berth in Class B regionals on the line.
That means they’re still a few wins away from a state tournament berth, and Malloy seems hesitant to talk up his team’s accomplishments too much, as if he doesn’t want to jinx himself.
Now, full disclosure: Matt and I are friends. I first met him when I covered the State A tournament his senior year in Rapid City, and covered his career at USF, where we maintained a good player-reporter relationship. We kept in touch after he graduated, mostly through baseball, and we played on a flag football team together this fall. I know his family.
And honestly that says a lot about Matt, because I’ve written — objectively and at length — about the worst moment in his life. That would mean a termination of communication with some people, but Matt never gave me a hard time for doing my job, even when it was painful for him.
On some level I’m sure he’s not thrilled that this piece is reminding people of that day three years ago, but he answered all of my questions, and it was apparent some of them were hard for him.
But he’s moved on. He’s doing good work in Gayville, and I thought it would be a good time to catch up with him.MZ:
So your upset of Viborg-Hurley on Tuesday. How big of a win was that?MM:
It’s really big for Gayville-Volin. They haven’t been to a district championship since the 80s. They’ve never made a state tournament. So to go from being 4-14 last year to playing in the district championship is a huge deal for them and the program and the community and everyone involved.MZ:
Do you have a shot at beating Alcester-Hudson (today)?MM:
I think we do. They’re 14-6, we’re 13-7. They have seven seniors and they’re a big, physical team. They beat us by 11 earlier in the year but we hadn’t hit our stride yet. After beating the No. 1 seed we should have some confidence.MZ:
What kind of team do you have? Did you inherit some talent?MM:
Coming off a 4-14 season I was pretty sure we’d improve. I did get a good group of girls. There were no seniors last year, so we didn’t lose anybody. I figured it was really going to be contingent on how hard we worked in the offseason. We’re not very big, so we had to become better shooters and ball-handlers. I think that’s really where I was able to help them being that I was a scorer when I played. We’re still a young team, but they’re pretty dedicated and they’ve really bought into what we’re selling.MZ:
And what are you selling?MM:
Well, Gayville-Volin got second at state in cross country and third in track, and I had girls from both of those teams on the basketball team. So I said, hey, we’ve got good athletes, let’s push the ball, wear teams down and press the whole game, and that’s what we’ve done. They conditioned really hard. I told them to be prepared to work their butts off, and they’ve done it.MZ:
How did you wind up getting the job?MM:
I was the assistant last year. Trey Krier was the head coach. Then he got a job in Yankton as the sophomore boys coach, and when he left they let me be the head coach.MZ:
Did you want it?MM:
Yeah, I wanted it, and I told ‘em that in my very first interview, that I wanted to be the head coach someday, that I wanted to build a program somewhere.
I really think in small towns basketball tradition is important, and it’s something that can’t be coached. You see programs like Avon and Parkston that are always having success — you have to build interest in your program to get girls to come out. There’s a lot of small towns that are having numbers problems right now. You need to build a winning attitude around your program and your school, and I think there’s a great opportunity to do that at a Class B school.MZ:
Is coaching high school basketball what you really want to do?MM:
My dad was a high school basketball coach, and let’s face it, we’re a basketball family. My sisters, my grandpa, my uncles, it was just kind of all I grew up knowing. It’s something I have a passion for, obviously, but it’s also something I know. Sometimes I feel like it’s the only thing I know. I don’t know at what point it kicked in, but I always knew whatever I did in life would involve basketball and kids in some way.MZ:
Did you see yourself coaching girls, though? And would you be OK staying with girls?MM:
I didn’t want to coach girls. I remember my senior year in college saying, ‘whatever I do I just hope I never have to coach girls’. And now that I do I don’t know if I’d ever want to go back to boys. I really think a good girls coach in a small town can be a bigger part of making a successful team then at a ‘AA’ school where you have a ton of athletes to pick from. There’s a lot more molding and teaching that goes on at the small town girls level, and I like that.(Photo by Jeremy Hoeck)MZ:
So are you in this for the long haul, being a coach and teacher?MM:
Yeah, definitely, for the foreseeable future, anyway. It’s hard — I don’t think the general population realize all that goes on behind the scenes, all the extra hours you put in. There’s days I’ll get to school at 7 in the morning, go straight from school to a game and don’t get home til midnight. That’s a long day. And doing it 2-3 times a week, then going to practice the rest of the week and being at school til 6 at night, that’s a long day, too, especially when you’re teaching Kindergarten. But I’m enjoying it. I can’t really see myself doing anything else.MZ:
How much did you worry about the incident at USF affecting your ability to get a job?MM:
I definitely worried about it a lot, especially trying to get into teaching. It is hard to find male teachers at Elementary schools, and I think that helped me to an extent. But really I just needed someone to give me a chance, and Jason Selchert, the Superintendent at Gayville-Volin, gave me that chance.
He actually ref’d some of my games in college, which I thought would just deter him from me. But he saw potential in me and gave me an opportunity, and I’ll be forever grateful for that.
I learned a lot from that whole experience and I think it helps me relate to kids. They’re going through a lot of the same life choices that I struggled with. They know that I’m not perfect and they know they can come to me and talk to me about things like that.MZ:
Do you feel like that incident is still attached to you, that it’s still something other people think of when they see you or hear your name?MM:
Yeah, and I don’t know if that’s ever going to go away. But that’s nothing I can control. All I can do is the best I can at what I’m doing and show people I’ve learned from that, and help kids avoid the same mistakes I made. I think with time — time kind of heals, and I hope I can be successful enough to make the other stuff fade away, but at the same time I know it’s attached to me and it always will be. I just can’t let it hold me back.MZ:
What was the hardest part of going through that situation?MM:
(Long pause) Letting my parents down. Not being able to play basketball, and letting my team down, that hurt, too. Now the hard part is having that one bad decision cause people to think that’s who you are. You still hear it, people still have those perceptions. But that’s not who I am, it’s just one bad decision I made.MZ:
A lot of people in your situation would’ve probably kept a real low profile after something like that, but you didn’t. That honestly surprised me a little. It seemed like you were trying to, I don’t know, not let it change you or something.MM:
That’s who I’ve been my whole life. I made a mistake, but I wasn’t just going to stop being me all the sudden. People saw the way I played basketball and thought that’s the kind of person I was, but they don’t understand that being a 5-9 white kid that can’t shoot, you have to have a chip on your shoulder if you’re going to be successful.
I can’t even begin to explain how embarrassing it was for me to go through all that and how much it hurt my family, but to go into hiding? I wasn’t going to do that. I wasn’t going to let that be the thing that defined me as a person.MZ:
Have you talked to Eric Tisby lately?MM:
I haven’t for awhile. I’m sure if I called him right now he’d pick up the phone and we’d have a 20-minute conversation and it’d be good. But I know he’s playing pro ball, and obviously I’m busy coaching and teaching. You drift away and get busy with your own lives, but he’s still my friend. I’m glad he’s still playing.MZ:
How did you end up teaching Kindergarten?MM:
I student taught 8th grade social studies at Patrick Henry, then I came here last year and was a title teacher where I helped in different classes, and I was around the Kindergarteners a lot. They saw that I was pretty good with the kids and had a knack for being patient with them. They added another Kindergarten class this year and asked me if I’d do it. It’s something new and challenging but I think I’m good at it. In this day and age there’s a lot of single-parent kids, and a lot of kids who don’t have a positive male role model in their life. I try to be that for them.MZ:
Sounds exhausting. I’m sure you’ve got some horror stories already.MM:
I’ve wiped so many butts, Zim, it’s not even funny. Cleaned up a lot of puke. I had a kid go to the hospital after getting a rock stuck in his nose. That was on the second day of school. But it’s been pretty smooth sailing from there.
The Gayville-Volin girls take on Alcester-Hudson tonight in Tea at 7 p.m.