By Chris Metcalf
High Character. Integrity. Honor. Passionate. Demanding. Competitive. Well Prepared. Accountability. Old School. Disciplined Programs.
Let’s face it, walking in the shadows of a program once coached by the legendary Tom Downey is, in no possible way, an easy assignment.
Downey, who led the Bulldogs to four Section V titles (1987,1988, 1991,2001) passed away in 2003 of cancer at the young age of 50, sending the Livonia community into both deep sorrow and utter shock. Downey coached Livonia to 15 LCAA titles.
Who would actually want to follow in those footsteps?
Former Bulldog Matt Young wanted to.
Young was a former player for Downey and he was proud to instill many of the same coaching traits that Downey possessed.
Old school coaching with highly disciplined programs.
Young taught it and preached it. Just like his old coach!
In all, Young coached the Livonia boys for 20 highly successful seasons which included 260 victories along with eight Livingston titles, and two undefeated regular seasons (’10-’11) and (’13-’14).
Young earned four Section V Coach of the Year awards, which shows you just how much he was respected by other coaches in his classification. He was also named Livingston County COY two separate times.
Young led his Bulldogs to three sectional championship game appearances, losing to juggernauts Batavia, Leadership Academy and Greece Odyssey in the Class B1 finals.
Although his program never took home the Section V block, he was always right there as a threat because of his teams’ discipline and fundamental approach.
He ran into some absolute buzzsaws in Class B.
Kind of like some of those great Charlotte teams back in the 80s, Young’s Bulldogs always seemed to get the short end of the stick having to play similar teams to those great Laker squads that came from throughout the City of Rochester and beyond.
For years, it always seemed that Section V would throw a great Rochester City school in the same Class B bracket as little old Livonia.
Young never bitched, he just had his Bulldogs lace up their sneakers a little tighter before all those David vs. Goliath matchups.
I would have loved to see Livonia get one of those for Young and his Bulldogs. It just wasn’t meant to be, I guess.
If you ever watched them play, you immediately saw the discipline he instilled in his teams, this coming on both ends of the floor. If you didn’t play a high level of intensity on the defensive end, you didn’t put on a Bulldog jersey. If all you did was play offense, you weren’t wearing blue and orange for a Young-coached team, that wasn’t going to happen.
Young always liked a challenge for his Bulldogs.
Young’s non-league schedule was never cupcake city, he always played teams as good or better than his teams were. He didn’t care about getting the 50-point blowout win against some over-matched team, he wanted his program to prepare for the postseason by playing better competition. He would absolutely risk a loss to improve his program, it was in his DNA, to do what was best for the Bulldogs, just like Downey.
I always respected that coaching philosophy, especially playing in the rugged LCAA D-I, which was one of the toughest divisions in basketball from the 2000s through about five years ago. Young had every reason to throw an easy non-league game in there, but he never wavered and always played the best he could find.
His absence and passion for coaching basketball will be felt throughout the Livonia community as he steps away, at least for now, to spend more time with his family which includes three young girls and a boy.
Jonah Martin, a York graduate and Livonia’s JV coach for the past few years, will take over varsity.
What they are saying about Matt Young.
Casey Richardson (Livonia assistant coach)
“Matt Young instilled character in his teams and any player who came through his program. He has a passion that is unmatched in his approach to coaching. Student-athletes learn how to be motivated in multiple aspects of life through his approach and preparation in everything he does. I have been very fortunate to have been around him these last few years and to have had my son play in his program. I owe so much to him for bringing the passion of coaching and mentoring students back to me. His program records and stats only prove how dominant his program was. It will remain strong because of the shape he left the program in. That again shows the type of coach and leader he is.”
Eddie Orman Jr. (York basketball coach)
“Matt was a big asset to LCAA basketball and a staple of the Livonia Basketball community. He bridged a difficult time in the program with the passing of coach Downey and managed to honor his legacy and make the program his own. His teams were always some of the toughest and most disciplined in the LCAA, and when it came to sectionals Livonia was always ready for the challenge of playing in a very tough sectional class with Monroe County and city competition. I’m happy for Matt that he left on his own terms and wish him the best in the future. I look forward to seeing a former Golden Knight Jonah Martin continue the great tradition that is Livonia Basketball.”
Dave Moodie (Dansville basketball coach)
“Matt Young was one of the most competitive coaches I’ve ever coached against. His teams resembled that same spirit and were always well-prepared. I always appreciated Coach Young’s commitment to coaching in what many would consider ‘old school’. His players had outstanding fundamentals and his teams ran their sets to perfection. Matt comes from the Tom Downey coaching tree. He did an outstanding job continuing a proud tradition of winning basketball at Livonia. I will miss the chest match of going against Coach Young.”
Dan Dickens (former Cal-Mum basketball coach)
“Matt did a great job over the years at Livonia. Even though we only played a handful of times during the season we always scrimmaged each other before sectionals and his teams were always well disciplined and it was always tough to get open looks against them. Unfortunately Matt’s best teams always seemed to be in brutal sectional brackets. Hats off to Matt though on a great coaching career and continuing the success that Coach Downey had at Livonia.”
Steve Girolmo (Former Livonia AD)
“I first got to know Matt as a competitor when I was privileged to coach him in basketball and football. We had five seasons together as coach and player, so I knew how athletic he was, how loyal, how coachable, and how determined. As an Athletic Director and department chair, it was a joy to help bring him back to Livonia as a teacher and coach. He made a great partner in the PE department, and I count those years with him as the best. I got the chance to coach with him on his bench for a few years when my son Matt, (no coincidence), played for him, and I couldn’t be prouder of the teacher, Coach, and man he grew into. Passionate and demanding, knowledgeable and accountable at all times. He always worked to make the kids better in all ways, on and off the court and field, in season and out. A Bulldog through and through, he’s been a great reflection on his family, his school, and community. “
Lindsey Meys Photography