Mike White | Friday, June 26, 10 a.m.
You'd have to agree that Matt Clement's story certainly is an interesting one. He retired as a major-league baseball pitcher only a few months ago. On Monday night, he was hired as Butler High School's new boys' basketball coach.
He is a 1993 Butler graduate who always used to say that coaching basketball would be his ultimate goal when he was finished with baseball. I spent some time with Clement at his Butler home the other day for a feature story in Sunday's newspaper. But newspaper stories can't go on forever. Clement had some interesting things to say that didn't make the story. Here are a few subjects Clement talked about:
On who impacted him the most during his major-league career: "The first was Trevor Hoffman, just as far as his work ethic, how hard you have to work to be good at something. You don’t know how hard that guy works. The second would’ve been Greg Maddux. I only got to spend one year with him and I don’t know if I learned everything I could’ve learned from him. But the stuff that goes through his head, how he figures things out was unbelievable. He just shows you how good you have to be mentally to be successful at the game.
"The best thing about Maddux was how humble he was. He was crazy, just with his some of his antics and different things he did. But he never wanted any credit for anything. If he helped you, he’d say, ‘Don’t tell the paper I helped you. Just say you did it.’ I’ve been around so many superstars with so many different attitudes. This guy could’ve had the biggest attitude, but he had the smallest one and he helped me so much just on how to pitch."
On Manny being Manny. Clement played a few seasons with Manny Ramirez and the Boston Red Sox and has a Ramirez autographed jersey on a wall in his house: "Everyone knows Manny. I love Manny. He was one of the hardest working guys I ever played with. I might be one of the few people to talk good about him, but he's a guy who would come to the field early to work. He had his moments. I think where he gets misunderstood is he makes about two bone0headed plays a year. Then all of a sudden, all of his bonehead plays over the years come up.
"But I liked him. The first two years I was in Boston, he was batting, like, .180 in May. But he acted the same way as if he were batting .300. I loved how even-keeled he was. He was always the same person whether he hit a home run or grounded out. He was never beating on walls and screaming. You get what you get with Manny, but if I had to pick one person that I played with who I needed to win a game, it would absolutely be Manny."
On the places he played and what he likes about living in Butler: "During the season, I loved the places I played. But places like Boston and Chicago were just crazy. No matter where you went, people talked about the season. But I’ve always enjoyed myself here in Butler. I like the change of seasons. Football season is one of my favorite seasons. I like the fall. A lot of places I could’ve lived, there wasn’t a fall. There was summer and a winter."
On his days playing basketball at Butler. He was a starting point guard on the 1993 team that made it to the WPIAL Class AAAA championship: "I’ve always supported the programs at Butler and I’ve always said being a basketball player was one of the coolest times of my life. The teammates I had, the winning we did – it’s always been something I really enjoyed. Obviously, basketball is my first love."
On high school sports now and when he played: "I think what is kind of cool and unique about me is I played in 1993 when the coaching styles were a little more ‘knock you over, drag you down, beat you up.’ I was perfect for that mold. I think from 1993 to 2009 things have changed. If you beat kids down enough, parents will be in there saying you’re hurting kids’ emotions. I think one of the things that I bring to the table is I lived through that change and was a competitor through that change."I’d like to say kids are the same, but times have changed. I was nuts back then. Hopefully, I have about 10 kids who are as nuts as I was. But when you talk about what kind of style I’ll have as a coach, I think the one thing you have to bring up is we’re going to play defense. The No. 1 focus of what we’re going to do is play defense. We’re going to have some fun. We’re not going to try and win games 28-20, but our offense is going to be determined by what we have on offense. If I say we’re going to shoot 3-pointers, and we don’t have the players to shoot 3-pointers, then we’re going to lose."
On his passion for being "prepared": I don’t do things for a joke. When I go into something, I’m dead serious about it. My biggest issue (he laughs) is I never want to feel like I’m not prepared enough. When I played, I’d study films, run extra and do whatever I thought I needed to be prepared. One thing I promise you [about coaching] is that we will never ‘not’ be prepared. My conscience doesn’t let me not be prepared. If I had one worry (he laughs again), it’s that if there are 300 films to watch for a game, I’ll try and watch all 300 of them. That’s how I operate. If you play professional sports, you have to go above and beyond just what is expected – and I plan to bring that same attiude into coaching."