Back to basketball: Former Morgan Twp., St. Joseph's College star Bush returns to coaching at S.C.
Coaching has called Matty Bush back to the basketball court.
The former Morgan Township and St. Joseph’s College standout, who shared a bench with his late dad Matt both as a player and a colleague, is returning to the bench as head of the South Central boys program.
“I’ve always wanted to get back in it,” said Bush, who is expected to be school board approved July 11. “I thought about what I wanted to do, stay in the business world or get back in coaching, and I figured out coaching was what I wanted to. Basketball is a big part of our family life. I was around it my whole life other than the last couple years. My dad was a larger than life figure. He had a big personality. Those were some of the best times. I’m excited about the opportunity.”
A 2004 Morgan graduate, Bush is the career scoring leader at the school with 1,467 points. His teams, coached by his dad Matt, won 61 games and two sectionals in his four years. A four-year letter winner in college, Bush led the Great Lakes Valley Conference in 3-point shooting accuracy at 54 percent in 2007 and was named academic all-conference. The Pumas reached the NCAA Division II tournament in 2006 and 2008 and captured the GLVC regular-season and tournament championships in 2006.
Bush went into coaching, spending a year at Cape Coral (Fla.) High School before returning to Rensselaer, where he worked three seasons as the head assistant. The Pumas captured a GLVC North Division title and advanced to the NCAA D-II tournament Elite Eight, which marked the first time an eight-seed reached that stage.
After Matt became head coach at Purdue North Central during the 2012-13 season, Matty joined his dad’s staff and followed him to Hammond when he became the first coach of Purdue Northwest in 2016. An ongoing battle with cancer forced Matt to step aside from coaching during the 17-18 season, during which Matty took over the program. Matty hasn’t coached since his dad’s death in April 2018.
“After dad passed, I wanted to take over (at PNW), but they went another direction, and the assistant’s job didn’t pay a lot,” Matty said.
In the five years since, Bush has worked in the private sector while living in Valparaiso.
“I’d talked to some people, some contacts, put some feelers out, mostly local places, a couple in southern Indiana,” he said. “I saw online that South Central had an opening. I played college ball with a couple of South Central guys, Greg Boo, Joey Cuff. When they gave me a tour of the facilities, we were walking around, I blurted out, this feels like home. It really does. I feel comfortable in the area, the (Porter County Conference). I have an understanding of the people, the teams. I really liked it from the get go. I thought I would really like to work here, that they’d be really good people to work with.”
By coincidence, Matt Bush graduated from New Prairie, where South Central Superintendent Ben Anderson and Athletics Director John Haggard also attended high school.
“We had several strong candidates, and (Bush) definitely rose to the top,” Anderson said. “It’s nice to have someone who understands the tradition and importance of the PCC. His familiarity with the PCC and South Central stood out among a lot of things, but first and foremost, it was his character. He seems like a pretty even keel, calm, cool and collected guy. His ability to teach was a factor as well. I sincerely hope he can provide stability in the program.”
Bush will teach Geometry and Statistics at S.C. Though he had been out of coaching and has only done student teaching up to this point, he had kept his teaching license current.
He graduated from St. Joe’s with a degree in History and Secondary Education, and also has his Master’s.
“My 100 percent focus is on teaching and coaching,” he said. “I feel it’s important for the head coach to be in the school. That’s not always possible, but I love the idea of being a part of the community, being in the school, being there in the building.”
South Central went 9-36 the last two years under Eric Speer and has just one winning season since 2016, but returns several players, including leading scorer, sophomore Jay Huerta.
“I’ve watched some games on YouTube a little bit, and from everything I’ve heard, they have a great group of guys, some young talent that could possibly be pretty good,” Bush said. “I’ve talked to some people in the community, everybody’s saying the same thing. They’re good, hard-working kids. That’s all I can ask. The PCC’s small schools, but it’s always tough, with good teams, good coaches and good players. It’s not easy to walk in anywhere and win. We have a lot of work to do, but if everything I hear is true about the kids, we have a foundation to build on.”
As coach, Bush intends to adapt his style to his personnel.
“I like to build around what I have,” he said. “I’m not a system guy. I fit the best I can with what they do. My reputation as a player was more offensive minded, but as a coach, I’ve been more defensive minded, at St. Joseph’s, with my dad. Both places, we split offense and defense. I’ll probably run the defense. We’ll try to have the identity of a really strong defensive team. Every coach wants toughness. Defense is something that always travels. No matter how bad you are on offense, if you get stops on the other end, maybe you can grind out some ugly wins.”
Kurt Welsh, who has been an assistant, is expected to remain on staff.
“We get along well,” Bush said. “We met to talk and talked for three hours. It sounds like he does an awesome job with the kids. Nothing’s set, but I’m hoping he’ll stay. I’ve got a decent amount of contacts, so I’d like to also find a younger guy who wants to move up in the coaching world.”
Known as Matty as a player and Matt in the business world, Bush said he’s comfortable with either name.
“The thought (of my dad) went through my mind when this all started to happen,” he said. “I’m sure he’s looking down and is pretty pumped for me that I’m doing this. When they told me I had the job, I talked to my mom, and she was all excited. She said, I get to go to basketball games again.”