The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

July 14, 2013

Eyes wide open

As Matt Vespa takes over boys program at Geneva, he knows how the situation stands

Matt Vespa knows what he’s getting into when taking over the Geneva boys basketball program.

The Eagles have won just two games over the past two seasons, but that doesn’t mean Vespa is any less excited about the prospects of returning Geneva to the winning program it once was.

“I’m very excited,” he said. “I did actually hear (warnings) from a couple people when I received the offer. They were supportive, but surprised (I took the job). I take that as a challenge and I embrace it. I think we can win here. I kind of have an idea of how we wanna play and they’ve done a great job responding (this summer).

“If you wanna be great, and I wanna be great at coaching, you have to face challenges. Nothing comes easy.”

Vespa comes to Geneva from South, where he served as a varsity assistant for the past four years.

A 2002 graduate of North, Vespa is certainly familiar not only with the Eagles’ program, but also the competition he will be up against playing in the always-difficult Premier Athletic Conference.

“The PAC is a pretty good conference,” he said. “There’s a lot of really good teams and I know a lot of these coaches so I get a sense about what these schools have. North has tough kids, South typically has athletes, all these teams kind of have an identify.

“A couple of these guys are coming back as coaches that I played against. So I’m familiar with these guys not just as player but now as peers.”

As an assistant at South, Vespa had a front-row seat to see the Eagles play twice a year over the last four seasons.

While he didn’t always see a winning team, he saw players who had the qualities of a winning team.

“I saw kids that play hard all the time, I know that’s kind of a cliché, but we would talk all the time on the bench at South, like, ‘man, these kids play really hard,’” he said. “I think they can win. There’s not a ton of size but I’ll take hard-working kids over tall kids any day.

“In the little bit of time we’ve been together it’s been a very pleasant surprise. Anything we ask them to do they’re ready to go.”

While he knows his team won’t be the tallest, Vespa does know how he wants them to play under his watch.

“We want to be disruptive when we play,” he said. “We can’t do that with size per say, but they’re pretty quick, athletic, hard-nosed kids. The word VCU uses, and we’re going to use, it’s ‘cause havoc.’ Whatever other teams do, we wanna cause havoc. That’s a style they’re embracing.

“It takes a while to learn how to do that and play like that for an entire game but they’re doing a good job.”

To play that style, Vespa said his players need to learn how to push themselves out of their comfort zone.

“I use the word process all the time with the kids because we’re learning how to play basketball hard,” he said. “I know that sounds easy, but most don’t’ know how to do it. We gotta learn it. We have to get comfortable being uncomfortable and pushing ourselves. There’s not a lot of players willing to do that.

“We’re learning how to practice then you learn how to compete. Then you learn how to beat teams you’re better than and eventually, you learn to beat teams you’re not better than.”

Vespa said he feels his time as an assistant coach has him well prepared to take over his own program.

“It was a great experience, I worked for two different head coaches and learned a lot from both of those guys about basketball and how to run the program,” he said. “That’s kind of the most shocking thing — just learning how to run a program.

“But it’s been great for me. I played in the PAC, now I coach in the PAC. I see different things from different teams and I’ve learned a lot.”

While Vespa hasn’t put any win-loss goals on his team for his first season, he said his biggest goal is to have teams not look forward to playing the Eagles.

“I don’t want people to look at Geneva and say, ‘OK, good, we get to play Geneva,’” he said. “I want teams to not want to play us. If that happens, then you’re winning and you’re playing the right way.”

1
Text Only
Sports
  • Jefferson flying high

    Jefferson boys track coach T.J. Furman didn’t know what to expect from his young team coming into the 2014 season.

    April 20, 2014

  • Scholastic Statistics:

    BOYS TRACK
    NON-CONFERENCE
    Jefferson 130, Pymatuning Valley 88, Springfield 75, Southeast 73.50, LaBrae 67, Liberty 56.50, Conneaut 44, Maplewood 39, Chalker 32, Windham 18
    at LaBrae

    April 20, 2014

  • Advantage, Diemer

    Every pitcher wants to get the advantage against every batter she faces. Edgewood lefty Taylor Diemer gave herself that edge and it proved to be key as the Warriors topped Madison, 1-0, Friday at Edgewood.

    April 19, 2014

  • Scholastic Statistics:

    SOFTBALL
    NON-CONFERENCE
    Edgewood 1, Madison 0
    at Edgewood

    April 19, 2014

  • Scholastic Schedule:

    SATURDAY, APRIL 19
    Baseball

    Brookfield at Conneaut (1)
    Grand Valley at Berkshire (10)
    Chardon at Madison (DH, 11)
    Edgewood at Fairport (11)
    West Geauga at Riverside (11)

    April 19, 2014

  • Spartans knock around Dragons

    After being cooped up in gymnasiums for the better part of the season so far, the Conneaut and Lakeside softball teams were just happy to get onto a diamond. Playing for the first time in nearly a week, the Spartans toppled the Dragons, 11-2, Thursday afternoon at Lakeside.

    April 18, 2014

  • PV can’t get past Mathews

    Thursday afternoon at Pymatuning Valley, the visiting Mathews Mustangs were able to do what every coach hopes for — execute. They played a clean game from start to finish in every facet of the game, and that carried the Mustangs to an 8-2 Northeastern Athletic Conference victory.

    April 18, 2014

  • Scholastic Statistics:

    BASEBALL
    NAC
    Matthews 8, PV 2
    at PV

    April 18, 2014

  • Scholastic Schedule:

    FRIDAY, APRIL 18
    Baseball

    Geneva at Edgewood (11)
    Niles McKinley at Edgewood (5)
    Conneaut at Lakeside (4:30)
    Madison at Euclid (4:30)
    Softball
    Madison at Edgewood (4:30)
    Geneva at Mentor (10, DH)
    Tennis
    Conneaut at Madison (4)

    April 18, 2014

  • Justin Butler Justin time

    It was just four short years ago that Justin Butler was spending his fall on a soccer field.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

Sports Week in Review April 14 to 19
Sports Week in Review April 7-12
Spring Sports Practice in Ashtabula County
2014 AP BB Tourney Top 25
2014 AP BB Tourney Scoreboard
2014 AP BB Tourney News
2014 AP BB Tourney Photos
Star Beacon-Ed Batanian Senior Classic
Girls Regional Basketball Action
Week of Champions
Sports Week in Review February 21, 22
Grand Valley at Edgewood Boys Basketball
Sports Week in Review Feb. 3 to 8
Sports Week in Review January 30 to Feb. 1
Sports Week in Review January 13-18
Sports Video Archive
House Ads
AP Video