Over the summer, both the Ithaca College women’s and men’s basketball teams recruited new assistant coaches. Mary Mazzella and Matthew Smith are expected to join college teams as assistant coaches for the upcoming season.
Dan Raymond, head coach of the women’s basketball team, announced the hiring of Mazzella on July 25. Mazzella joins the Bombers after spending the past two years at SUNY Brockport as an assistant coach for their women’s basketball team, where she is also pursuing her master’s degree in sports administration.
Mazzella, no stranger to Division III basketball, had a four–career year for the SUNY Oswego Lakersaccording to a statement from the College of Ithaca. Mazzella captained the team for two years and was also named the Lakers’ Most Valuable Player in 2015-16, before graduating in 2017.
Mazzella has also spent his time working as a leader and advocate for student-athletes. Mazzella was a member of SUNY Oswego’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and was invited to numerous NCAA leadership training workshops, where Raymond said she honed her leadership skills and worked alongside coaches to learn how to lead a team.
“His knowledge of basketball, his IQ and his leadership, those are all things that I know very well, with Mary that she’s going to bring,” Raymond said.
Raymond said he was delighted to have the opportunity to have a new coach with the team, especially with Mazzella’s experience.
“I’m really excited about the places she’s been,” Raymond said. “The things she’s done are going to be different from what I’ve done and anything any of our players have done.”
Mazzella has previous experience with the Bombers as her sister, Meghan Mazzella ’19, played for the Bombers. Usually Raymond would bring his former players back into assistant roles after graduation, but he said he was looking forward to having Mary Mazzella on the team.
“This time I didn’t have [students] that were going to be available, so I did the next best thing. I chose the sister of one of our former players,” Raymond said.
Mazzella said she was thrilled to join the team, especially after visiting Ithaca several times to support her sister.
“I know the area, and I know the program is very successful and has a great tradition, So that was it something I couldn’t say no to,” Mazzella said. “I’m really looking forward to really getting involved in the program and learning how everything works and getting to know all of the staff players that make this program successful and the athletic department that supports them.”
Joining the men’s basketball team is Matthew Smith. Smith graduated from SUNY Brockport in 2017, spending three years on their team.
As an athlete studying basketball in college, Smith didn’t have the same opportunity as others to study abroad, as the season spans between the fall and spring semesters. However, after graduating, Smith was offered the job of coaching youth basketball in Guangzhou, China.
“It was a great experience to be able to travel and also be able to coach basketball, and just a really phenomenal culture to spend every day there, and really opened my eyes to a lot of different things,” said said Smith.
Waleed Farid, head coach of the men’s basketball team, said Smith’s coaching experience in China set him apart and eventually led him to the position of assistant coach for the Bombers. Farid said he thought Smith’s time in China said a lot about the new coach.
“One of the things I look forward to in our coaches is someone who has different experiences, someone who has shown they are willing to challenge themselves, and I think that doing such a step is something that shows a bit of maturity,” said Farid.
As an assistant coach, Smith said he will make sure to support student-athletes as much as possible by working as a team with the coaching staff and players. Smith said he knows the team’s priorities lie both on and off the pitch in setting the bar academically high for their players.
“I think the best way to [support athletes] is giving of my time,” Smith said. “I want to make sure that I spend as much time as possible with the players and the student-athletes, and Farid’s coach, because I really think that’s the best way to show that you’re invested and to care fairly about everyone involved.
With plenty of time before the basketball seasons start in November, Smith and Mazzella are ready to go. For Smith, the season can’t come soon enough.
“I’m just super excited to be here at Ithaca College, and I’m ready to work hard, and I’m really looking forward to this season,” Smith said.