PINEVILLE -- Louisiana College President Dr. Rick Brewer and Athletic Director Reni Mason announced on Thursday the hiring of Matt LeBato as the Wildcats next women’s basketball coach.
LeBato comes to Pineville after serving the past two seasons as an assistant coach at McNeese State University under Head Coach Kacie Cryer.
The Sulphur native is a graduate of Northwestern State University, where he was a member of the Demons’ basketball team. He also spent time playing at Baton Rouge Community College following his graduation from Sulphur High School before landing in Natchitoches.
Prior to his coaching stint in Lake Charles, LeBato served as an assistant coach at St. Louis Catholic High in Lake Charles, where he helped lead the Saints to a 25-5 overall record and a LHSAA Top 28 appearance. He has also spent time as a volunteer at IMPACT Basketball in Las Vegas, Nev., where he worked with NBA players like Kyle Lowry, Tayshaun Prince, Stanley Johnson, and Andre Drummond.
“We had a plethora of interest in this position from all over the country, but it was clear that when we brought Matt to campus he was prepared and he came in with a lot of enthusiasm for the job,” Mason said. “One of the most important things for me was having an individual that fit the school’s mission and someone that was willing to work and make no excuses why things can’t get done.
“I had an opportunity to watch Matt work even when he didn’t know I was watching him. We were on the road probably two years ago at an AAU tournament and I noticed that Matt stayed in the gym all day long. That’s very impressive for a young coach. For me, that sets the tone for someone who wants to be in this business. He just kind of stayed on my radar and fortunately for Louisiana College we were able to get him here.”
“We are excited about the potential for our women’s basketball program under the leadership of Coach Matt LeBato,” Brewer said. “His knowledge of the game, ability to recruit, and commitment to Christian leadership will be a plus to Louisiana College. We believe Coach LeBato will build upon the tremendous success the program has experienced for decades while bringing his energy, passion, and uniquely gifted skill set to the role as head coach. Coach LeBato certainly epitomizes the college’s vision for Preparing Graduates and Transforming Lives. Let the Matt LeBato era begin!”
LeBato comes from a rich pedigree of coaches under which he has played for, coached with, and learned from. He grew up surrounded by the game of basketball with his father and uncle both long time coaches in the Lake Charles/Sulphur area. He played for his father at Sulphur High School before getting the opportunity to play for the legendary Mike McConathy at Northwestern.
“Matt is very passionate, caring, and dedicated to everything that he participates in,” McConathy said. “He always worked really hard at his game and I know that he will carry that over into coaching. I think that one of the greatest advantages of having played the game is the ability to see what worked or didn’t work as a player, and know what players need to work on to improve and I think he’ll carry that forward from his playing days.
“It’s extremely exciting when you see young people that have been involved in your program moving forward to try and advance other young people and give them the chance that they’ve had in the past. I know that under the leadership of Coach Mason that he will do a great job and I’m just excited that LC has given him the opportunity. It makes us proud as well at Northwestern because he’s one of ours and he’s a part of our program.”
Demons’ assistant coach Jeff Moore echoed the sentiments expressed by McConathy.
“Matt is a young man of very high character,” Moore said. “He’s relentless in his pursuit of doing the right thing and being good at things. He was always early to the gym and late to leave. He’s just a great teammate that was always about what’s best for the team.
“He’s very selfless and a guy that’s willing to help and do things out of the ordinary to help others. He’s a Christian and that’s how he lives his life. I think he’ll be a leader that serves others in that leadership role. He’s got a lot of passion and I know that he’ll fit the mission of the college and the athletic department and do things the right way, not just on the basketball court, but academically and in the community. I think it’s a great fit and a win-win both ways.”
After his playing days at Northwestern, LeBato had the opportunity to stay connected to the game by working various camps along with his time working in Las Vegas with IMPACT Basketball. He was a part of former McNeese women’s head coach and current University of Alabama assistant, Brooks Donald-Williams’ camp staff during her time in Louisiana.
“I am thrilled for Matt,” Williams said. “Coaching runs in his blood. He was born into this profession. It certainly doesn’t take long when you are around him to feel the passion he has for the game. So many of my former players rave about his knowledge of the game, his passion and drive, but most importantly his care and concern for them. I’m excited for Matt and for Lady Wildcat Basketball and look forward to following his success.”