02 03 SoCal High School Baseball: One-on-One with Matt LaCour 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

One-on-One with Matt LaCour


In 2007 Matt LaCour became the head of the baseball program at Studio City Harvard Westlake in somewhat of a surprise move. He gave up one of the best coaching jobs in the CIF City Section at powerhouse Woodland Hills El Camino Real to take over a downtrodden program. 
Fast forward to 2013. LaCour lead the Wolverines to their first ever CIF Southern Section Division 1 baseball championship behind stellar pitching and spectacular defense. In the process, LaCour became the first coach in history to win a CIF title in the City and Southern sections. 
Things have been moving at an amazing pace since winning the title in Dodgers Stadium in early June. LaCour has traversed the United States and has travelled abroad. After a long two-plus months of baseball away from home, LaCour took time to catch us up on his wild ride. 
SCP: It's been a pretty busy, albeit exciting, last few months for you. What's been the best part of this experience that's seen you win a CIF title, a gold medal with the 15U national team, and coach the west squad in the Perfect Game All-American Classic?

Nothing can really compare to the CIF title and the experience with our guys at Harvard-Westlake.  We have put in so much time and invested so much into these players and the program at Harvard-Westlake, so the gratification of winning everything that you can win is on another level.  It’s been nice to step back from the program a bit this summer and just enjoy the past year and everything that has happened.

The Team USA experience is unique and special as well.  Because the coaching staff was together for something like 45 days this summer traveling to Florida and Arizona and then to North Carolina and ending the summer in Colombia, you develop bonds with the coaches and players that are unlike any other experience.  I’ve heard it said by many that wearing the USA across your chest is special, but you don't really get it until you get into a foreign country and you hear the national anthem playing prior to facing another nation.  It’s really a proud feeling.

The Perfect Game event was a blast.  Getting to see the best of the best was a lot of fun.  It’s amazing to see what some of these guys can do.

SCP: After you won the CIF title you said no one thought you could accomplish that at Harvard Westlake. What was the process like, going from an unknown program to CIF Southern Section Division 1 champions?

ML: It was as bad as you could possibly imagine when I first got here.  Completely dysfunctional.  Looking back now, what we have done here is a huge accomplishment.  People on the outside look at us and think we are just one of the many private schools that are doing well in athletics nowadays.  What folks don’t understand is the academic level that our kids are on.  You can’t just go out and find good baseball players.  Kids that attend Harvard-Westlake must be outstanding students first and foremost.  Other schools will bend the admissions rules at times for kids that are really talented on the field, we don’t.  To get kids that are this smart and have to really put in a lot of time academically to succeed on the field at the level we have over the last three years, is something we are all very proud of.
SCP: You've had the opportunity to coach a couple first round picks along with several Division 1 players. What is it about your system that enables players willing to put in the work to advance to that level?

ML: Our coaching staff is relentless and we have great guys at each level of our program that understand that player development is something that we can control with hard work and quality coaching.  Kids know that they can always find a coach at the field.  If they want something extra, we have coaches that will be there.  We take pride in developing the player that may not be a great athlete and making him a good baseball player.  Our time is on the practice field.  When people see our practices they tend to understand what I am talking about.  We have kids that are motivated to do well both on the field and in the classroom.  Once we point them in the right direction more times than not they will put in the work necessary for success.

SCP: You've been involved with USA Baseball for a few years now, what's that experience been like for you?

ML: Being around coaches from throughout the USA you learn different things.  I view coaching as an evolving process that is constantly changing and it’s important for me to keep trying to get better at my craft.  The 15U level is fun because you are getting kids that are really good, but still have a ton of development left inside of them.

SCP: You were an assistant coach on the USA Baseball 15U national team that won the gold medal in Colombia this summer. What were some of the highlights of that experience?

ML: Things that are a grind when you are going through them end up being something you really cherish as time goes on.  The afternoon summer rains in Florida to the 120 degree days in Arizona while we were selecting the 40 man trials rosters.  The humidity of North Carolina and two a day workouts and trials games that leave you exhausted at the end of the day.  Having to cut the roster to 20 guys and knowing that kids take this extremely hard.  Watching kids accept roles on a team when they are used to being the best player. 

The comebacks we made against Panama in the semi-final and against Cuba in the pool play and in the gold medal game were the most memorable moments.  The kids had a fight in them that will benefit them for years to come.

SCP: How special was it win the gold medal with so many kids from Southern California playing such a big role on the team?

ML: We had a ton of representation from California which, when you look at it logically, make sense.  We are blessed to have weather here that allows us to play more baseball than most other parts of the country.  Players are going to develop a bit earlier in California than they will in other areas.  All of the California kids were great and it will be a lot of fun watching them develop over the next few years.

SCP: You go from winning a gold medal to coaching in the Perfect Game All-American Classic. What's it like coaching a team full of future Division 1 and professional baseball players?

ML: Sit back and watch the show.  Not sure I would call it coaching.  I observed more than anything. And I got to interact with a bunch of really good kids.  They are all special baseball players but they were also for the most part all really good kids.

SCP: The participants in the All-American game took time to visit Rady's Children Hospital which serves children battling cancer among other ailments. What was it like to watch your players interact with those children and what did you personally take away from that visit?

ML: For me, that visit was somewhat of a déjà vu experience.  We lost a baseball player at Harvard-Westlake a couple of years ago, Chris Robinson, to Leukemia.  I saw how the disease ate away at him physically over the course of time.  Throughout the entire process, Chris persevered and fought really hard.  Seeing kids going through that same process and receiving the same treatments as Chris was really tough.  Watching the players interact with those kids was special; it’s something I don’t think they will ever forget.  I know that we at Harvard-Westlake will never forget Chris.

SCP: Now that this busy summer has come to a close for you, what are you most looking forward to doing?

ML: Sleep and family!  Need to catch up on some rest here over the next couple of weeks before school gets going.  That summer break thing never really happened so looking forward to recharging the batteries and getting back at it with our guys in September.  This summer took me to some really cool places, but none of them with the family.  My oldest daughter will enter 7th grade at Harvard-Westlake this fall, so I’m really looking forward to seeing her face every day on campus (she might not be as enthusiastic about Dad being around her at school).  It’s been a great conclusion to a great 2013 this summer.

--Les Lukach

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