Legendary basketball coaches maintain unique Friendship throughout longstanding careers

Divyana Bose | Staff Writer

Greg Richards (far left) and Rob Matula (far right) first began their coaching careers at Mason in 1989.

One of the keys to a long lasting relationship is stability. With a combined 42 years as the head coaches of the Mason boys and girls basketball programs Greg Richards and Rob Matula are the models of stability in the basketball programs at Mason High School.  

Richards is in his 26th year as the boys head coach and Matula is in his 16th leading the girls program. Between the two of them they have accumulated 660 wins. Matula has won 281 while Richards has won 379 games. With half a season still remaining and no signs of them slowing down more victories are out there for the taking for these two accomplished coaches who are also close friends off the hardwood.  

Before winning several league championships, notching numerous coach of the year awards, and hanging banners for post season championships Richards and Matula got their start when they first became teachers at a much smaller Mason high School in 1988. 

In 1989 the two teamed up when Matula took over as the junior varsity boys coach and worked alongside Richards who was a varsity boys assistant coach at the time. 

Before they became a coaching duo, Richards and Matula first met each other on a summer softball team. At first sight, Richards said that Matula appeared to be more intimidating then he actually was. 

“He came across as being this big tough guy the first time I met him,” Richards said. “However, I could just tell he was a softy at heart.”

As Richards and Matula’s friendship was in the early stages, they grew close off the court, golfing together, vacationing, and raising their children side-by-side. Matula said that even their wives are best friends.

Through basketball, the two assistant coaches bonded while constantly studying film and scouting for the boys’ varsity team. As young up-and-comers, Richards said his aspiration and drive to become a head coach was matched by Matula.

“We were bouncing things off of each other a lot,” Richards said.  “It was just a learning experience, and we went back and forth on ideas. We both dreamed of running a program eventually, and our dedication almost forced us to become a head coach someday.” 

In 1995, Richards was given the keys to the Mason boys program. As a former stand-out Mason athlete it was a dream come true. But in order for Matula to pursue his dream of becoming a head coach he had to leave. 

Matula left Mason and became the boys head coach at Talawanda in Oxford, Ohio. After two successful seasons guiding the Braves, Matula was able to get a little closer to home taking over as the head coach at Sycamore where he helped turn around a struggling program ultimately guiding the Aviators to their only district title. 

In 2005, Matula felt the urge to return to Mason and this time around he made the decision to take over the girls basketball program and resume teaching in the Science Department at MHS.

Even while coaching elsewhere Matula and Richards remained close friends but now the two would be reunited under the same roof where they would continue to influence each other on and off the court.  

“I was glad that I have had the opportunity to be around one of my best friends ever,” Matula said. “Not only the love of basketball but the love of being a Comet has brought us closer together, and even when I became the girls coach, we still shared a lot of the same principles when it comes to coaching.”

As Matula’s son Drew went through the Mason basketball program, he found himself playing for Richards. Matula said his son playing for his close friend was an amazing opportunity that he was very thankful for.

“It was like a dream come true,” Matula said. “To have my son play for someone who I consider a very dear friend of mine, but also who I know is one of the best coaches, in the state of Ohio and in the nation, was an honor.”

On their way to a combined 660 wins they’ve both accomplished several achievements and they made sure to celebrate those accomplishments together even though they were no longer on the same coaching staff. Richards said it was an important occasion when they could celebrate their accomplishments together. 

“It’s been nice to share his winnings when he got to the state and the regionals, and he is with us when we win league championships in sectionals and districts,” Richards said. “It’s just sharing those titles together I think is nice to see.” 

At the peak of their accomplishments, both coaches have no problem finding the will to celebrate. However, when they are at their lowest moments, Matula said that Richards has always been there when he needed him most.

“I can remember like it was yesterday, Richards coming into my home as I sat at my dining table. “I was devastated after being 0-7 when I was head coach at Talawanda,” Matula said. “But there was my best friend that I coached under, encouraging me and telling me to just keep going.” 

Richards and Matula have both influenced each other in many ways, including new coaching styles and leadership techniques throughout the years. They each have their own style and beliefs when it comes to coaching their respective team but there are certainly some similarities in the implementation of strategies on offense and defense. For Matula though, the most important thing they share is their friendship and strong loyalty they have for one another. 

“I’m just glad that I have had the opportunity to be around one of my best friends ever,” Matula said. “He’s been a great mentor for me and when I need him, he has just always been there for me.” 

Although Richards decided to retire from teaching at the end of the 2014-2015 school year after 27 years of teaching at Mason, he decided to keep coaching. Matula is in a similar situation; he plans to retire at the end of the 2020-2021 school year but will continue coaching at Mason. Matula said that he came to the realization of his days being a teacher are coming to an end, but he is making the most out of each passing day.

“Every morning I come into school I don’t want to take anything for granted,” Matula said. “I walk in knowing that I need to enjoy myself because teaching wise my time in the classroom is coming to an end.” 

As Matula’s teaching career winds down,  Richards remembers days that sparked their competitive spirit during their school days together, where he and Matula would try to outdo the other when it came to the little jokes or stunts. 

“Matula used to come to school on Sunday nights to prepare for Monday, so I came up with a plan to move his car to the back of the building so he would think his car got stolen,” Richards said. “It was a little prank that was so unforgettable to me.”

Although teaching in the traditional classroom is in the past, teaching on the court is still something that is very important. Richards and Matula both take pride in how far they’ve come together in their careers of being coaches. Matula said he doesn’t know exactly what his legacy will be, but he wishes it will be defined by the impact he has made on his players.

“My hope has always been that my legacy isn’t dictated by the number of games won but more about how people describe our program,” Matula said. “Hopefully, people see our program as one that has players who work very hard, are respectful, and always try to represent Mason in the best of ways.”

Richards has high hopes that his players will continue to apply many of the life lessons they learned while under his guidance.  

“I hope that every coach and player has learned something along the way throughout our program whether it’s through basketball or life lessons,” Richards said. “You have to be willing to make those adjustments to learn and understand from your mistakes.”

Photo from Mason High School Yearbook