The unique path Matt Zosel has taken since graduating from Southern Oregon University will lead him back to his alma mater as the next head coach of the Raider men’s basketball team, SOU Director of Athletics Matt Sayre announced Thursday.
Zosel – after being named the Northwest Athletic Conference’s South Region Coach of the Year for the second straight season at Lane Community College – is set to become the 15th head coach in the program’s 96-year history, and the first new one since 1996. He’ll succeed his former coach, Brian McDermott, who announced his retirement in March after missing last season due to health issues.
“I am so humbled and excited for the opportunity to lead the Southern Oregon men’s basketball program,” Zosel said. “Taking the reins from coach Mac is a dream come true and I can’t wait to get started.”
Zosel, 44, graduated cum laude with a history degree from SOU in 2002 and was a three-time NAIA Academic All-American for the Raider basketball and football teams. Twenty years later, he still stands as the school record-holder for single-season and career field-goal percentage.
His coaching career didn’t begin in earnest until 2013. After leaving Ashland, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and completed a 75-week Arabic program before joining the Army’s Airborne School. He served for more than seven years as a platoon sergeant on the 75th Ranger Regiment, the Army’s premier light infantry force, while earning two Bronze Stars among other commendations. He was also twice selected among the Army’s top-100 soldiers to compete in the Best Ranger Competition.
Following a year-long stint as a diplomatic special security agent at the U.S. Department of State – serving on the Secretary of State’s protective detail to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and Syria; being picked for the U.S. Marshals task force; and conducting high-level criminal investigations – he found his calling as a coach.
Zosel got his start in Illinois as an associate head coach at MacMurray College (2013-14) and Millikin University (2014-15). He landed a graduate assistant position at University of Oregon under Dana Altman by 2015. With the Ducks, he helped develop three current NBA players (Chris Boucher, Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey), and in his second season they advanced to the NCAA Final Four for the first time since 1939.
His next stop was Phoenix, Ariz., where for one year he directed the Jamal Murray Elite AAU program. He then returned to Eugene as an assistant at Lane before taking his first head coaching gig with the Titans in 2019. They went 51-21 over three seasons under Zosel, and celebrated an NWAC South championship with a 24-4 record in 2021-22.
“Matt has had success in every endeavor he has been associated with,” Sayre said. “His background of experience as a coach and leader of young men has so much depth. He embodies the values of servant leadership and character we try to instill in our student-athletes. In addition, he’s a great basketball mind and understands the high level of Cascade Conference play our program will face all season long. We look forward to seeing the innovation in play, recruiting and program development he will surely bring to the mix.”
Zosel’s official start date is June 1. The Coos Bay product will take over a team that lost just one senior after going 18-15 overall and reaching the CCC Tournament championship game.
“Coach Mac has built a tremendous program with high character people and I am committed to continuing this tradition,” Zosel said. “My vision is to put a team on the floor that is unselfish and competitive. Off the floor we will be great human beings and compete in the classroom.”