MATT ARELLANO
MATT ARELLANO
By BRUCE HEFFLINGER

Sports Writer

With July upon us, Matt Arellano is not about to slow down in his effort to build the girls basketball program at Paulding.

The new head coach of the Panthers, who took on the job a month ago, has one major goal in regard to the program - provide stability.

“The biggest thing I can bring is continuity,” Arellano said. “It’s been unfortunate with all the coaching changes. It makes it extremely hard to catch any rhythm and feel to get comfortable. I think I can bring that.”

Arellano will be the fourth head coach in four years with the Paulding varsity and the fifth mentor in the last six years.

“When you hire coaches you never know what will happen,” explained Paulding athletic director Brock Bergman, who in addition to hiring a new girls basketball coach for the 2019-20 school year is looking to find a new head baseball and softball coach. “Obviously with Matt it’s somebody that has invested and coached here for a long time and we’re excited about that.

“He’s done a great job here in different capacities. I think he’ll give stability to the program which will be great for the kids and the district in general.”

The list of basketball coaching positions that Arellano has held at Paulding since 2007 is a long one: boys junior high, boys freshman, boys varsity assistant, girls junior high, girls junior varsity and girls varsity assistant.

“I bring a fresh set of eyes with some familiarity to the girls,” noted Arellano, a 1994 Paulding graduate. “This group of seniors I coached in seventh grade so this will be my fifth year with them and fourth year with the varsity.”

Bergman sees a lot of promise with Arellano in charge.

“We knew Matt was interested and we approached him,” the Paulding AD pointed out. “We liked what we heard from him about continuity and we think it’s going to be a great fit.

“He has a great work ethic and he works really well with the kids. His ability to teach skills and his overall enthusiasm for the job is great to see. The kids see it and they feed off of it.”

Being a varsity head coach for the first time is exciting to the new Paulding mentor.

“This team has a very special place in my heart,” Arellano said. “Every year you coach you get a new group that you find something you love about them.”

But the lack of continuity has taken a toll on the program, which last year finished 10-14 under the direction of Samantha Schmenk. A year prior, the Panthers ended 7-16 with Gus Davis in charge after a 6-17 mark the season before with Mark Rhodes the head coach. Rhodes was 8-37 in two years at the helm of the program.

“It’s tough to play under different coaches,” Arellano pointed out. “But I firmly believe I’m doing it for the right reasons.”

The hope is that stability comes with the new mentor.

“Trust is a big word,” Arellano said of his philosophy. “Trust on defense you’re going to help each other out. Trust on offense your teammates can do the job. We want to quicken the pace and play hard, but the big word is going to be trust.”

Numbers appear to be on the rise after the loss of just two seniors to graduation.

“We have five incoming freshmen, so the numbers look to be up,” Arellano said. “We should be around the 20 mark which is excellent. We have a lot of ball handling and the basketball IQ is above average. The next step is strength and conditioning and putting it all together. It’s on us to put the pieces together.”

The 42-year-old is more than happy with the staff he has assembled.

“We’ve brought on some extremely smart people that will benefit the girls,” Arellano noted. “It’s a diligent group that is trying to get the gym open as much as we can and create a gym-rat culture.”

Joel Parrett is the only returning coach from last year’s varsity, with Ben Barton, Jodi Griffith and Brian Daeger helping form the 2019-20 staff.

“The offseason is crucial,” Arellano admitted. “It was rough putting it together on the fly but the one good thing we have here is a do-it-all conditioning program that (football) coach (Tyler) Arend runs, so I didn’t have to do anything there.

“It’s all gone extremely well so far. It’s crucial that the girls take time on their own to work on their game but we also want them to be kids, too. It’s a fine line there,” Arellano continued. “But they have to understand if you want to get to the next level you need to work out on your own. It’s gotten better every week and the response from the community has also been good.”