Matt Skinn helped transform the basketball programs at Cape Breton University (CBU) and St. Francis Xavier (St. FX) University as head coach and now he has returned to the University of Calgary to help the Dinos win a national championship.
Skinn is excited about this year’s team which is currently ranked fourth in the country.
“We talk about winning the day as our motto . . . if we win the day every day, then on the last day of the season, we’ll hopefully win that day as well.”
Skinn rejoined the Dinos coaching staff in 2016 after his time spent in Calgary from 2004 to 2008.
He left the Dinos to become the head coach of the St. FX women’s team (X-Women), leading them from their previous 24-56 record to an improved 79-44. During his time at St. FX, Skinn took the program to the second national championship appearance in the school’s history.
After his time with the X-Women, Skinn changed addresses again to become the head coach of the men’s team at CBU, his alma mater.
Kol Armstrong, an assistant coach under Skinn at St. FX, says the program’s place in the standings reflect the impact of Skinn’s leadership.
“If you can gauge how he took two programs that really weren't known to be outstanding to the top, then he leaves, and they start to struggle.”
Skinn says he was determined to make a difference at Cape Breton and change the fortunes of the program he spent five years playing in.
“A big job of mine was to change the culture there and how the team was perceived in the community and at the university.”
During his first year, the CBU Capers had a great season with 16-1 record and won the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) conference championship.
“Winning the championship at CBU is pretty special. I have a little clip of me reacting afterwards because we came really close when I was a player.”
Skinn’s success continued, winning AUS coach of the year and appearing in another national championship. Skinn loved his time at CBU and intended to have a long tenure as their coach, but he ended up moving back to the University of Calgary in 2016 for personal reasons.
His coaching mentor, Wayne Thomas, says Skinn’s success comes from his ability to form relationships with his players.
“One thing that's very good about [Skinn] that other coaches can't duplicate is that the players feel that he's on their side.”
The recent Dinos Hall of Fame inductee added, “I think he brings out the best in the players because they are convinced that he believes in them.”
The Dinos use Skinn’s head coaching experience as an asset to their program, giving him more responsibility than the average assistant coach.
“I really feel like I have a huge hand in the day-to-day operations in running the program, after eight years of being a head coach, it's nice to still have a lot of those same duties.”
Thomas agrees that Skinn takes on added responsibility.
“He could very well be what you might call a co-coach because he has head coaching experience and knowledge. He adds more than that than the average assistant coach.”
In the work he does with the team, Skinn enjoys recruiting and being able to put together different personalities.
“I want to work with these guys one on one and bring a team together.”
Armstrong believes that Skinn has only gotten better since their time together at St. FX.
“He's like a sponge, he picks stuff up really quick and over the last ten years he's improved drastically in terms of his bench coaching as well as his administrative abilities.”
Skinn’s confidence in his coaching ability has never been higher as he brings his successful resume to the championship-contending Dinos.
“I feel like I'm at my best right now. I feel I know the most, I've prepared the most and . . . feel that I can bring that onto the floor.”
The Dinos have established themselves as one of the top programs in the country since Skinn’s return. At the time of writing, they have won 35 of their 42 games.
- By Zachary Worden