The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
A dynamic young basketball coach who brought unprecedented success to Lamar State College-Port Arthur has decided to resign barring any unexpected change of heart.
Guiding the Seahawks from an unknown to national junior college basketball stature a year ago, 28-year-old Shreveport native Matt Cross submitted his resignation Wednesday to LSC-PA president Dr. Sam Monroe.
The decision to leave Lamar State followed nine months of health issues for Cross and a difficult working situation with the Seahawks in a competitive Region XIV basketball conference.
Cross won exactly 70 percent of his games in three seasons, compiling a 70-30 overall record. He led the 2010-11 Seahawks to a 24-8 ledger, a Region XIV conference tournament title and three games in the NJCAA tournament at Hutchinson, Kansas — the national championship event for JC basketball.
Matt’s 2011-12 squad had a hard act to follow but it captured the Region XIV south zone regular-season title and established a school record for victories with 26.
“I have dealt with a health condition this season and I need to take some time away to address that as well as reflect on my career,” Cross was quoted in a statement released by Lamar State on Wednesday.
Cross was regarded as a serious candidate for the Lamar University basketball coaching job last spring after the Region XIV tournament success but his health issues started last summer.
“I’m not really well-versed in what his health issues are,” Dr. Monroe told The News on Wednesday. “It’s a hard day because Matt has done some remarkable things here.
“I want to be very helpful in every way regarding his future. We’re grateful for the job he’s done here.”
The decision to resign was not easy for Cross to reach, but it apparently developed last week while the basketball coach was addressing his health concerns at the nationally known Cleveland Clinic.
“Although my heart is torn, I have become convinced that it is time for me to step down as the basketball coach at Lamar State and look to seek other coaching opportunities in the future,” Cross said. ‘‘It is the right thing to do at this time to allow Lamar State an opportunity to get a coach in place for the upcoming juco recruiting season.”
Dr. Monroe indicated that a committee, led by Lamar State athletic director Scott Street, will begin the search for a new coach for the Seahawks.
That is, unless Cross should have a change of heart. Dr. Monroe definitely gave the impression that he would be happy rehire Cross if the Seahawks re-considered the situation and decided to remain at Lamar State.
Cross hinted on Tuesday that considerable financial changes in Lamar State’s athletic picture only added to the degree of difficulty for a Seahawks coach in future seasons.
The Seahawks coach has faced the difficult task of providing and making food and lodging arrangements available for LSC-PA athletes because the school lacked sufficient on-campus dorm facilities.
A great portion of Lamar State’s Region XIV competitors have on-campus dorm facilities available. The school on the seawall also suffered significant financial hits and enrollment declines from Hurricanes Rita and Ike in 2005 and 2008.
Dr. Monroe denied to The News on Wednesday that Lamar State intended to withdraw from the scholarship-supported Region XIV conference. He also indicated that Lamar State did not intend to reinstitute a non-scholarship athletic program as it did early in the previous decade.
“Our funds have to come from an athlete fee (for LSC-PA students) and the funds that we are able to raise throughout the community,” Dr. Monroe said. “The state does not allow any funds for athletics. You have to budget from non-state resources. It’s definitely a problem.”