Matthew Steinfeldt takes charge of the Aztec boys basketball program and will pull double duty as he enters his fifth season as Aztec's head football coach
FARMINGTON — The Aztec boys basketball team has had more low points than high points during the past few seasons, but with the recent hire of Matthew Steinfeldt as the new head coach, there’s reason for optimism for the Tigers.
Steinfeldt, who has been Aztec’s head football coach for the last four seasons and will remain in that role, said the main reason he wanted to take over the hoops program was to provide stability for its players.
“We’ve had an unfortunate run with changing coaches over the last few years, and it seemed the boys who are interested in basketball are losing an opportunity because of that instability,” he said. “They’re great young men who deserve a coach who is going to be there for a long time.”
Steinfeldt will be the fourth head coach in as many years. The Tigers finished the 2015-16 season with a record of 1-24 and haven’t had a winning season since the 2010-11 season.
“He had a lot of energy and enthusiasm. He had that and some good Xs and Os, and basketball knowledge that he wanted to bring,” Aztec athletic director Bryan Sanders said of Steinfeldt. “We’re trying to build some of our athletic programs back up, and he’s been around and been involved, and we think he can bring some stability and continuity.”
Sanders cautioned Steinfeldt about taking on the role as basketball coach because the football and hoops seasons overlap in November, but he said Steinfeldt’s enthusiasm did not wane.
The key to the transition from the gridiron to the hardwood, especially during the overlap period, will be getting the right coaches on the staff to help during that time, according to Steinfeldt.
Steinfeldt hasn’t coached basketball in about 15 years, when he was an assistant in his hometown, Green Bay, Wisc. While he has been away from the sport for a while, Steinfeldt said he believes his ability as a coach will be one of the most important factors while trying to overhaul the program.
“It’s been a few years since I’ve coached basketball, but I like to believe coaching is coaching,” Steinfeldt said. “We’re going to put the best kids on the floor and teach them a little about the game itself. I feel I have a strong background, and basketball has always been a passion of mine, and I’m really looking forward to working with these boys.”
Steinfeldt’s philosophy for the Tigers on the court will be the opposite of the football program’s.
Under Steinfeldt, the football team is built around its offense, spreading the ball out in a pass-heavy scheme. But in the gym, he wants to build the team around physical and aggressive man-to-man defense.
Steinfeldt has already met with some of the players to talk about the changes the program will go through and what changes the Tigers want to see for the upcoming season. He asked them what they thought worked and didn’t work, as well as what their goals for the season are and how they can achieve them.
“Almost all of them came up with the idea that improvement can be measured on the outside by wins and losses, but first and foremost, changing the culture was something they wanted,” Steinfeldt said. “I think with the type of talent we have, vying for the district (title) will always be a goal. We want to set realistic goals, but also lofty goals. I think competing in the district, which is a strong district, is always going to be one of our goals — that and making our way into the state playoffs.”
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.