This article originally appeared at Collegelax.us
Article by Liz Alley.
Photo courtesy of UConnLacrosse.com
Eight years after coming to this country from Croatia, it appeared as if Dino Mattessich would always compete on a track. Fortunately for the lacrosse world, his time as a hurdler and pole vaulter would be limited. At the end of his freshman year at Freeport High School on Long Island, N.Y., his track coach told him that he was not good enough to make the varsity team and suggested that he give lacrosse a try.
“The first lacrosse game I ever saw was the first game I played in. I didn’t know anything about the sport. I didn’t quite understand the offside rule and I just stopped at every line on the field until my coach told me to keep going,” Mattessich reminisced.
But he caught on quickly and in no time he was playing at the University of Maryland and winning the 1973 NCAA National Championship.
“I have been very fortunate to be influenced by some very good coaches who taught me a lot about the game. Dick Finley, an All-American at Syracuse [University], was my high school coach. He taught me the fundamentals and, more importantly, how to compete. Hall of Famer Bud Beardmore was my coach at Maryland. As a lacrosse strategist, he was ahead of his time and will be remembered as one of the best to coach the game. I learned the importance of organization and preparation from Coach Beardmore,” the former captain of the Terrapins said.
Graduating from Maryland with a bachelor’s degree in physical education in 1974, Mattessich returned to Long Island to put all of the lessons he had learned into his own coaching career. Starting with the junior varsity team at Manhasset High School, he then moved on to the college level: first at the University of Baltimore, then at his alma mater, the University of Maryland. He spent three years at the helm of the Terrapins and then he decided to leave the sidelines in 1983 and pursue a career in college athletics administration.
“When I accepted the coaching opportunities presented to me, it was always with the idea that I would eventually move toward an administrative career. I was fortunate to get into college coaching at a very young age, have some success and gain experience that would later be very valuable in my administrative roles,” he said.
After 12 years as an Assistant Athletic Director at Towson University and six years at the University of Maine, Mattessich came to Storrs, Conn., in 2001 to join the University of Connecticut Athletic Department.
Currently the Senior Associate Athletic Director, Mattessich returned to lacrosse last year, coaching the men’s club team at UConn. “I did it to spend time with my son, Brian [a senior on the team], and to give the kids a good experience. The kids were great and the lacrosse was pretty good. I got hooked,” he said.
Under Mattessich’s guidance, the 4-9 Huskies transformed into a 9-3 nationally ranked team playing in the Pioneer Collegiate Lacrosse League semifinals, a feat that was recognized by the PCLL when they named Mattessich the 2006 Coach of the Year.
Although his son, a third team All-Conference selection last year, has graduated, Mattessich continues to coach. Not for fame or glory, but, he simply explained, “to give back to the game and to make a difference in the lives of young men who really enjoy the game.”
UConn is 4 – 0 so far in 2007 and the Huskies hope to continue their winning ways with Coach Mattessich at the helm as they host Boston University on Friday night at Sherman Field.