If you don’t believe the new Ole Miss women’s basketball coach, just ask his father.
Rick Insell should know a good hoops coach when he sees one. After building a dynasty at Shelbyville Central High in Tennessee, he turned Middle Tennessee State into a perennial NCAA Tournament team.
“I’m excited for him. This is something he has dreamed of and lived for since he was 13,” Rick said. “Basketball has been his whole life. I can even go back to when he was three or four years old. All he ever did was shoot in his room. He’d wear out those plastic goals, just wear them out. That’s all he ever wanted to do.”
Instead of running along and having normal adolescent hobbies, Insell went to his father’s basketball practices.
While other kids his age were playing on Game Boys, Insell was practically wielding a clip board and whistle.
“I can remember when I picked him up when he was in kindergarten in the first grade. He’d get through at 12 o’clock and I’d want to take him back to the baby sitter and he wouldn’t go. He’d come to my practices. One of the deals was he’d have to get his homework done and he was always able to get it done by 2:15 when we started practicing. He was there and he’d be walking around the floor with me just in the way. We were afraid he’d get run over but from there that’s the way it was with him and all of his brothers.
“It wasn’t like he was off in the gym doing things, he was with me on the floor.”
Some of those childhood images of Matt still surface without much extra thought.
“I can still remember I was trying to teach one of my teams at one point when he was in seventh grader about how I wanted them to come off of a pick because we’d done a lot of work in the gym. I hollered at Matt to come over and show her what I want,” Rick said. “I can still remember us feeding him the basketball, he stepped across that pick and was able to knock down a shot. That’s been his whole life.”
Even recruiting began at an early age.
“When I got in the car to go to games, he’d go with me. He was around all my friends and all the people that related to basketball. I think more than anything, that is where he built all his relationships and when he got to Kentucky, those relationships started paying off because, how did he get in on this recruit or that recruit? He got in with his relationships,” Rick said. “I think the biggest thing Ole Miss hired is the relationships he has with travel coaches, high school coaches and coaches in general around the country that have players. That’s what you have to do in recruiting and that’s what he’s got.
“He’s got more of them than probably anybody out there. I think it’s proven the fact because of what they’ve done at the University of Kentucky. Matthew Mitchell hired him five years ago and if you look at their roster and the people they have brought in, that’s why they have been in the Elite Eight the last three years. He’ll use that same strategy or blue print right here at Ole Miss.”
Getting his start
When telling of how Matt got into coaching, Rick doesn’t take much credit.
Rick made the meetings happen with his coaching connections, but it was Matt who firmly stuck his foot into the coaching profession’s door.
While Rick got his son the initial meeting, it was Matt who sealed the deal on what would be his coaching start.
“He wanted to be a manager at the University of Tennessee for the men’s program. He asked me if I knew Jerry Green. I didn’t, but I knew Pat Summitt — Pat and me are very close friends — and she introduced me to Jerry Green. Well in the meantime, Jerry OK’d him to come on to be one of his managers with no financial help. Before Matt got there, they fired (Green),” Rick recalls. “The next man they brought in was Buzz (Peterson). I called Pat but Pat didn’t really know Buzz. She knew of him and she got me a sit down with Buzz. I told (Matt) ‘it’s yours this time. I’ll go with you but you have to sell yourself to Buzz.’
“Not only did he sell himself to Buzz, but he became one of his closest compadres. He came on board with no financial help and by the time Buzz left, (Matt) was like an assistant coach. Everything he needed done, he was asking him to do. If he was on his boat and they were wanting to look at video clips or whatever, he’d call Matt and he’d go get the clips and meet him on the dock. That’s all he has ever done.”
As Matt has said numerous times now, “age is just a number.”
The 30-year-old Lady Rebel frontman may just be starting out as a head coach, but according to his father he has been preparing for this opportunity since he was first learning to walk.
That’s about 25 years worth of experience, but who’s counting?