Three years ago, in just his second year coaching Mounties Women’s Basketball, Matt Gamblin led a primarily rookie team to the CCAA Nationals at Vancouver Island University. Placing second in the ACAA Championships was a bit of a conference shocker Gamblin says, but it was no surprise to him.
“With a basically brand-new group, we carried that into a really good start the next year,” he says. “It was a program builder.”
Fast-forward three years and the team is heading back to the CCAA Nationals, but this time as ACAA Champions and hosts.
Again, this was no surprise to Gamblin.
“That has been the goal all year, just like it was three years ago,” he says.
Before the ACAA championship game, Gamblin told the team to make a memory out of the game.
“I guess they took it to heart because it was pretty memorable,” he says.
Gamblin says he had a tactical approach to coaching the game that was pretty specific, including using his time outs to manage the scoring runs. And even though the score ebbed and flowed, with the Mounties down by 16 at one point, they were still executing their game plan, including playing aggressively and forcing the Mystics into foul trouble.
“You’re in the moment so much it is just possession by possession and you’re not thinking about anything that happens before or after,” he says. “There were many great moments in that game that led to the win, including Emma’s free throws to tie the game. But another one worth noting is Lauren Chitty’s reverse layup that cut the lead to just four points in the dying seconds of the game.”
Although relatively new to the coaching game at 30 years old, Gamblin has been in a gym his entire life. The son of a basketball coach and physical education teacher, he has followed in his father’s footsteps. After playing competitively growing up in Spencer’s Island, NS, he went on to play with Mount Saint Vincent and the University of King’s College. His playing career was unfortunately cut short by a serious knee injury.
While obtaining his education degree from Crandall University, he began his coaching career with the Amherst Regional High School men’s team for two years before joining the Mounties. He is currently teaching Grades Primary-12 in Advocate, NS.
Although he says his coaching philosophy is still developing, he is fortunate to have learned from his father and many other great coaches.
“My coaching is rooted in the fundamentals of the game, fostering a competitive environment, looking at everything with a beginner's mind, approaching situations with openness, and never thinking that I have all the answers,” he says.
Coaching Mounties Basketball is also a family affair for Gamblin. His wife April is an assistant coach with the team, although she has taken some time away the past couple of years with their nearly two-year old son Cohen.
“April is a better player than I ever was,” he says. “She played at Dalhousie University and knows the game really well and is able to communicate that to the team. It's great to have a different set of eyes on the game rooted in the same basketball philosophy.”
Heading into nationals next week, Gamblin says nothing changes from the foundation of what they have been doing all year. They just need to adapt to new, national-calibre teams they haven’t seen before.
“I am looking forward to seeing the team rise to the occasion,” he says. “They have shown they can and they will.”
Catch the Mounties in first-round action vs. the Medicine Hat Rattlers on Thursday, March 15 at 6 p.m. AST. Tournament passes are available online and daily passes can be purchased at the door.
Stay up-to-date at www.ccaa.ca/sports/wbkb and follow the action on Twitter and Facebook @CCAAsportsACSC — join in the conversation using #CCAAwbb2018.