Crestview coach Matthew Potts is the Daily News Large Schools Volleyball Coach of the Year
CRESTVIEW — Coming off a 51-win season in 2013-14, the Golden State Warriors decided it was time to move on from then-coach Mark Jackson. The Warriors were improving, but the front office believed it needed new blood to win a championship and hired former player Steve Kerr.
Three championships later, the rest is basketball history.
Georgia Small, a senior on the Crestview volleyball team and the Large Schools Volleyball Player of the Year, reckons something similar happened to her Bulldogs this past year, albeit with a few key differences.
After three years with the program and a district championship in 2018, Ligia Willis, the reigning Daily News Coach of the Year, stepped down at Crestview in the offseason for personal reasons, and the team was sad to see her go, Small said, though Willis always made herself available when needed and kept in touch through her work with the 850 Elite Volleyball Academy in Niceville.
In her place, though, Matthew Potts stepped up.
An assistant at Crestview since 2014, his credentials were as good as anyone — leading several club teams to gold medals since his coaching career began in 1995 — and he came with the team’s stamp of approval.
"Ligia really stepped in and really turned our program around for three years," Small said. "Losing her was hard, but coach Matt was honestly a perfect fit for us this year because he’s a very strategic coach rather than a hardcore fundamental coach."
In essence, Potts was able to build on the skills Willis had taught the Bulldogs.
Under his leadership, Crestview finished 21-7, topped Niceville in the District 1-6A championship 20-25, 25-9, 25-22, 25-19 and produced the Daily News Large Schools Volleyball Player of the Year in Small.
"He’s been one of my No. 1 inspirations," she said. "He’s pushed me since I was 13 years old. Him and his family really gave me a real team bond. I’ve never had a team where they actually became my family, but these girls just became family … With him, it’s not always about talent; it’s about how well you work together."