Ten years after helping lead the Osaka Evessa to the first of three consecutive bj-league championships, Matt Lottich has become a Division I head coach.
Lottich on Thursday was named Valparaiso University’s new men’s basketball coach. He replaces Bryce Drew, who was hired this week to coach Vanderbilt University after five seasons at the helm.
Drew guided the Crusaders, a Horizon League school, to the NIT championship game against George Washington last week in New York. They finished 30-7, including a runner-up finish in the postseason tournament. Under Drew, Valparaiso had a 124-49 overall record.
Homer Drew, Bryce’s father, was the longtime head man at the northwest Indiana school (1998-2002, 2003-11).
“It is with great excitement and privilege that I take on the responsibility of being named the next head basketball coach at Valparaiso University,” Lottich said at a news conference on Thursday. “I understand the rich history of success this program has enjoyed, from ‘The World’s Tallest Team’ in 1944, to the great Gene Bartow-coached teams in the late 1960s, to the championship years of Homer Drew and most recently the unprecedented success of Bryce Drew.”
Lottich, who turns 34 in July, served as a Valparaiso assistant for the past three seasons, during which the team won 78 games, two Horizon League regular-season titles and one conference tournament title. Last season, the Crusaders went to the NCAA Tournament.
A former Stanford University guard (2000-04), Lottich has Midwestern roots. He starred on the basketball team at New Trier High School in Illinois, and received Chicago Tribune Athlete of the Year honors in 2000.
As a player, Lottich’s clutch shooting, solid passing and all-around fundamental play was a key ingredient in the success of the Evessa dynasty. The team won bj-league titles in the spring of 2006, 2007 and ’08. In January 2011, Lottich, then a floor leader for the HeatDevils, the team he joined in 2009, sank the winning shot in the bj-league All-Star Game to give the West a 100-99 win over the East.
Mark LaBarbera, Valparaiso’s director of athletics, said Lottich is a good fit to lead the program after Drew.
“Matt Lottich made an immediate impact on the program and has been around successful basketball his entire life,” LaBarbera said. “He has a keen basketball mind and a strong ability to teach and communicate. He offers our men’s basketball team the continuity we strive for and will uphold and elevate the program’s standard of excellence.”
Lottich, who served as head scout for the National Collegiate Scouting Association after leaving Oita, embraces this new challenge in the next chapter of his coaching career.
“This program is excellent, and as I begin as head coach I want to honor the success of the past but at the same time push forward into the future,” Lottich said. “It is my job to create an environment that allows our basketball players to excel academically, athletically and socially. I will lead our team to use the gifts that God has given them to represent our university and our community to the utmost and continue the championship tradition that is Valparaiso University.”
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