Over the course of his 25 years coaching basketball, Matt Anderson has been no stranger to the Big Bend.
Most of his stops in the Panhandle, however, have centered on a corridor from Panama City up to Florida’s northern border.
Having helped Malone to six state titles in the 1990s – including four consecutive as head coach from 1995-1998 – as well as successful stints at alma mater Ponce de Leon, Bay High, Graceville, and most recently Marianna, Anderson’s only trips to the capital city were for occasional away games.
Anderson was introduced Wednesday as Lincoln High’s new head basketball coach, a prominent landing spot for a coach with over 700 varsity and JV wins, and eight state championship rings as a head coach or assistant.
“You can’t do any better than what we were able to do at Malone, but we do hope to replicate that down the road,” Anderson told the Democrat.
“It’s always my goal as a coach to get to Lakeland, get to the final four, and then when you get there hopefully you can win it. But to take over a program that has done that, I’m going to do everything I can to help these young men get farther than they did last year and two steps farther than they did the year before.”
Lincoln was the Class 8A state runner-up last season, a year after making its first trip ever to the state tournament.
But the coaching move was necessitated as a result of the in-season suspension of Dimitric Salters.
Salters was not retained amid a Leon County Schools investigation into allegations of financial irregularities within the program, and a subsequent arrest for fraud and grand theft.
The Trojans won district titles all four years under Salters.
Meanwhile, Anderson’s Marianna team reached the Class 5A state tournament in 2016-17 and was 24-4 in his second year with the Bulldogs’ program after a successful four-year stint at Graceville.
“One thing I’ve learned is you have to keep learning, not only X’s and O’s, but how to relate to the young men you’re going to coach,” Anderson said. “Times have changed a bunch from the ‘90s to today. I’ve had to change and adapt, do things differently in practice and how I approach them.
“I just have to let them know in different ways than I used to how much I care for them and how much I will care for these guys down the road.”
Owner of a 553-187 varsity record, Anderson anticipates his new athletic Trojans team will adapt quickly to the up-tempo and pressing style he prefers.
He’s also excited about mixing it up with city schools that he hasn’t always had a chance to play against but that he knows well through coaching relationships, such as with Godby’s Andy Colville and Rickards’ Eli Bryant.
“The good thing is it brings out the best in your program every single night,” Anderson said. “We don’t have to leave the city of Tallahassee to be playoff ready. There are a lot of good programs, and Godby and Rickards have each won state titles in the last five or six years. We’re going to have to bring it every night, but that competition is good for the city of Tallahassee and the basketball in Tallahassee.”
Anderson will teach physical education at Lincoln, and through his interactions during the school day and after he hopes to imprint his vision upon a basketball program on an upward ascent.
“I’ve always felt that you can’t coach hard unless you care a lot,” Anderson said.
“I’m not a yeller and a screamer, but I am fairly demanding in my expectation. I want the team to carry itself a certain way. We’re going to play with class, act with class, and do our due diligence in the classroom.”