The John Cooper School announced a homecoming Tuesday as Matthew Wilson was named new boys basketball coach and program director.
Wilson, a 2006 Cooper alumnus, co-captained the Dragons’ Southwest Preparatory Conference (SPC) championship team that went 31-3 in his senior season.
After spending time as a coach elsewhere, mostly in the college ranks, Wilson saw an opportunity at Cooper he could not pass up.
“It’s incredible,” Wilson said in a phone interview Tuesday. “I’m so excited. I learned and grew so much in my time as a student at Cooper. So I’m thrilled at the opportunity to invest in our students and the future generations.”
Wilson played collegiately at American University in Washington, D.C. while earning his Bachelor of Science degree. Wilson also earned an MBA from Rice University and a Master’s in Education from Baylor.
The new Cooper coach was on collegiate basketball coaching staffs at Baylor, Eastern New Mexico and, for the past three years, Kilgore Junior College.
With plenty of experience at the next level, Wilson hopes to help his Dragon players with their own transitions out of high school.
“When I tell them what they need if they want to accomplish their goals of playing in college, it’s coming from a place of experience,” he said. “It’s coming from a place of having been a recruiter for five years. It’s coming from a place of working with college students on a daily basis. I understand what it takes to be successful in college.”
Wilson enters his first head coaching job with some high school experience as well. From 2010-12, he served as an assistant girls basketball coach at Episcopal High School in Houston.
As he re-enters the high school level, Wilson says his time at Episcopal should help him with the two main differences between college and high school basketball: interactions with parents and having multiple teams within one program.
“My experience at Episcopal educated my communications with parents and specific training for students,” he said. “The skill sets required at high school and college are a little bit different. I think that will help with that adjustment.”
Perhaps the most valuable experience Wilson brings to Cooper is his time there as a student. Wilson recalled a moment during his job interview when he met a current basketball player who was going to perform in the school play later that night.
Wilson says being involved and managing one’s time are two big parts of life at Cooper.
“I understand what they’re going through on a daily basis,” he said. “Cooper is an extraordinary academic school. It is difficult and you have to manage your time very well, but it prepares you for later in life tremendously. I understand the time commitment the students have to athletics, the time commitment they have to academics, and the time commitment they may have to other extracurricular activities.”
Cooper last won the SPC when Wilson was a player back in 2006. Now the coach, Wilson hopes to build a program — with strong defense, relentless effort and a quick transition game — that can get back to that level.
“We want to build a program where we are giving ourselves a chance to compete, ultimately for championships,” he said. “The timing of them is never certain. Championships are obviously very difficult and hard to come by, but to me, they require three things: they require a championship culture, they require talent and they require great team chemistry.”