More than 20 years after he landed his first high school basketball coaching job at Richford High School, Matt Luneau’s career has come full circle, give or a take a few miles.
After leaving the Richford job in the early 90s, Luneau embarked on a two-decade journey around the Northeast as a college assistant coach, including two years with the University of Vermont women’s basketball team and the last nine as an assistant for the Syracuse University women’s team.
This winter, Luneau returned to Franklin County as coach of the Enosburg High School boys basketball team.
For the Sheldon native and 1984 graduate of Missisquoi Valley Union in Swanton, the time was right to return to his roots.
“My wife Ilze and I have three girls (Iliana, 12; Marika, 10; and Evangelica, 4) and college coaching requires a lot of travel,” said Luneau, who worked with the low-post players at Syracuse in addition to “being on planes four days a week” for much of the year in his role as a primary recruiter.
“Kids grow up fast and I wasn’t willing to miss being there for them anymore,” said Luneau.
Once he decided to step off the college coaching carousel, Luneau said he toyed with the notion of remaining in western New York. Instead, he opted to raise his girls in northwestern Vermont.
Luneau worked his last day for Syracuse in August. A month later, he was living and teaching (and soon to be coaching) in Enosburg.
“I didn’t come back to Vermont with the intention of coaching, but I’m really enjoying working this group of young men,” said Luneau. “It’s been a great experience so far.”
Enosburg athletic director Chris Brigham said Luneau was the right man at the right time to help a program that lost its coach after reaching the Final Four last season.
Previous Hornet coach Steve Jette left the school last summer to pursue a job out of state, leaving an opening for a part-time physical education teacher and a varsity boys basketball coach.
“We were lucky to have a coach of his caliber available,” said Brigham. “He’s everything an athletic director could ask for in a coach. The kids love him. He’s getting the most out of them, on and off the court.”
Enosburg senior point guard Wyatt Larose said Luneau quickly earned players’ respect and despite some initial reservations, the level of accountability Luneau demands from his players has been embraced by the team.
“He expects a lot out of us,” said Larose. “It’s not just when we are at practice. We have to do study sessions and lift weights, too.”
“At first it was a little different,” said senior guard Brandon Gleason, the team’s leading scorer. “Guys were like, ‘Do we really have to do all of this?’ But it has helped us.”
On the court, the Hornets are 9-6 and riding a four-game win streak after Tuesday’s win over Peoples. Off the court, Brigham is more proud of a different record.
“We just had our marks come in at school and as a group, the team is averaging 90 percent in their classes. That’s remarkable,” said Brigham. ” It says a lot about what Matt is instilling in these guys and it says a lot about the way the kids feel about him, too.”