What many don’t realize in this bubble of Northeast Florida: Matthew Driscoll isn’t just the University of North Florida’s head men’s basketball coach.
He’s arguably one of the more sought-after basketball coaches and minds in the country.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Driscoll was supposed to be at the Final Four for the “Next Generation Coaches” conference, powered by Coaching U. Instead, he’s sitting on Zoom with yours truly.
After presenting “Next Generation Coaches” virtually (and now free) via Zoom that morning.
And with another virtual presentation – “Pace, Space and Embracing the Three” – scheduled for Thursday.
“By the way, my screen is way cleaner than it was [this morning, for the Next Generation Coaches presentation],” Driscoll smiled, after I informed him his computer camera was a bit cloudy. "[The presentation] airs tomorrow, and I'm a little concerned it's gonna be foggy!"
The camera may be foggy. What's very clear to everyone on the First Coast and throughout ASUN country:
Driscoll has built a consistent winner at North Florida.
"[We're] one of only 27 teams in the country that have won three-plus championships in the last six years," Driscoll said. "And actually, only two of us have had their last two championships with completely different rosters."
During that six-year stretch, the Ospreys are, by Driscoll's count:
- 59-29 in ASUN Conference Play
- 70 home wins
- 92-51 against mid-major programs
- 3.3/3.4 team GPA
And that's only the tangible numbers.
"I think some of the greatest contributions are what our guys do with other human beings, so to speak," Driscoll added, "and how they really pour into -- not just younger [people] -- but older people. People their age. Their peers. And the way in which they share each other."
It's a proven winner and known commodity. North Florida was 8-22 the season before his arrival in 2009. Add in Driscoll's 10+ year experience at Power Five programs Clemson and Baylor as an assistant, and it begs the question:
"We really feel like this is home. That's a cool thing to have when you get to be my age," the Pittsburgh-native Driscoll answered. He also attributed the "quality of life," the proximity to other, major metropolitan areas, and being one of 32 NFL teams as important factors.
But at the heart of it, Jacksonville has embraced Driscoll as much as he and his family have embraced it.
"The fact that we've poured so much into it ... [my wife] Carrie is really entrenched in a lot of different things as well, too. I think a lot of that factored into why 'North Florida.'"
The Ospreys won a program-record 21 games in 2019-2020, as well as a regular season ASUN Conference title. The second-seed in the 2020 ASUN Tournament, UNF was upset by Lipscomb on their home floor in the semifinals on a last-second basket with just seconds remaining. It would prove to be the final game for a heralded senior class that scored more than 7,000 points in their careers.
But Driscoll says he has no regret in how that game played out or in how the senior class' final season came to a close. In fact, when I asked if there was any moment this year that made him want to stay at UNF for the long haul, he said it always came back to that soon-to-be-departed senior class.
"When Carrie told me to embrace this senior group and not worry about who was coming in (through recruitment), or what people have done in the past, that really changed my perspective," Driscoll said. "Because of that, I think it really allowed me to enjoy ... what the team was doing."
With 2019-2020 now in the rear-view, though, it is "full steam ahead" for Driscoll and his staff as they look ahead to next year -- albeit with some limitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"What I'm really studying is where we were defensively," Driscoll said. "When we won our first championship, we were the best defensive team in the League. Right now, we're like fourth or fifth. It isn't like we're that far off the charts. We just gotta tighten some things up.
"And this group (2020-2021) is way different. We're gonna be a much more athletic group. We're actually gonna have more length than we've ever had before."
Driscoll admits that how this group will mesh together remains to be seen -- kinda like that web camera. But it's pretty clear.
He's the man for the job.