New Iowa men’s basketball assistant coach Matt Gatens comes ‘full circle’ in return to Iowa City

Gatens played for the Hawkeyes from 2009-12 and was hired to replace former assistant coach Kirk Speraw, who announced his retirement in May.


Jerod Ringwald

Iowa assistant coach Matt Gatens answers questions from reporters during an Iowa men’s basketball practice at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Wednesday, June 15, 2022. Gatens discussed when he found out he got the job. “I remember when he called and told me,” Gatens said. “I think I was mowing the lawn and I think I didn’t go in right away to tell my wife and I think I looked back out, most of my lines were all over the place. My head was just like running like I’m gonna get this done but my head somewhere else so yeah…”

Chris Werner, Summer Sports Editor

When Iowa men’s basketball head coach Fran McCaffery called Matt Gatens to tell him he’d been hired as an assistant coach, Gatens, a former Hawkeye hooper, was doing a pretty mundane household chore. 

“I remember when [McCaffery] called and told me, I think I was mowing the lawn,” Gatens said Wednesday in his first Iowa press conference since his playing days. “I didn’t go in right away to tell my wife and I looked back out and my lines were all over the place. My head was just running like, ‘I’m gonna get this done,’ but my head was somewhere else.”

While he struggled to keep the mower straight, Gatens was thinking about the opportunity he’d just been given; a chance to come back and coach at his alma mater after being away from the program for a decade. 

RELATED: Matt Gatens named Iowa men’s basketball assistant coach

The newest member of the Hawkeye coaching staff, who grew up in Iowa City and still holds the career scoring record at City High, played in Carver-Hawkeye Arena from 2009-2012. Gatens’ final two years in the Black and Gold were McCaffery’s first two at the helm. 

“I’m thankful to coach [McCaffery] for the opportunity,” Gatens said. “It’s pretty special and cool that he wants to have a former player on the staff… “It was a unique opportunity to have that presented and then, you know, to come home, it’s pretty special. I’ve been in and out, my family is still here and I come back, but to actually live here again and raise my family here, it’s special.”

Gatens will replace former assistant coach Kirk Speraw, who announced his retirement in May. Speraw, like Gatens was a former Iowa player. Courteney Eldridge, who was recently promoted to assistant coach, also played for McCaffery. 

Gatens said his experience playing in the Hawkeye program will help him make an immediate impact in his first year on the Iowa staff. 

“I just think being someone that knows coach McCaffrey, knows how he wants to play, knows how he wants to recruit… I have a pretty good understanding of what they expect,” Gatens said.

The two-time All-Big Ten selection also said his relatively young age will allow him to be on the court during workouts helping players develop their skills. 

Gatens played professionally in various countries overseas from 2012-2017 before making coaching stops at Auburn and Drake.

Gatens said his coaching technique has been influenced by many people he’s spent time with over the course of his career both on the court and the sideline. 

“Probably taken from a lot of different people,” Gatens said while attempting to describe himself as a coach. “Down to earth, easy to talk to, open door, want to relate to the players. Like coach McCaffrey, you know, a player’s coach. I obviously have taken a lot from him, you know, finishing up my last few years with him and then now coming back and always watching the program and what he’s built. But yeah, you know, a guy who appreciates toughness, competitive players, players that want to win, players want to get better.”

Two of Iowa’s current players — junior forward Kris Murray and sophomore forward Payton Sandfort — each called Gatens a ‘great hire.’

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