Fired Huntingdon coach: Right idea, wrong delivery

Matt Mahanic (left), the former Huntingdon College coach, caddies for former player Chase Blaich at the 2010 U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay.

Matt Mahanic (left), the former Huntingdon College coach, caddies for former player Chase Blaich at the 2010 U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay.

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Matt Mahanic concedes that he was wrong to curse his Huntingdon College men's team "in the heat of the moment."

Yet Mahanic, who was dismissed Nov. 9 after his profanity-laced rant toward his team went viral on the Internet, said his heart was in the right place.

“In the heat of the moment, did I use language I shouldn't have? Sure," Mahanic said in his first public comment to the Oct. 2 audio recording made by an unnamed Huntingdon player on the team van after the Hawks placed 11th in the 12-team Gordin Classic in Columbus, Ohio. "In looking back, that language got in the way of the message I was trying to get across to my players: that performing well below your potential is unacceptable. All I wanted was to get the most out their golf games. Those players put forth a lot of time and energy, and for that not to translate into results was frustrating. We have a very high standard for golf at Huntingdon, and the first half of our fall season didn't meet anyone's expectations.”

Mahanic, a 2007 Huntingdon graduate, enjoyed success as a player and coach at the Methodist-affiliated NCAA Division III school in Montgomery, Ala. He was an All-American before being named coach in August 2007. In his second season, he won the Dave Williams Award as the Division III Coach of the Year. Mahanic was appointed as Huntingdon's director of golf in April 2010. That year, he coached the U.S. team in the World Junior Golf Team Championship in Japan.

In five seasons at Huntingdon, Mahanic's teams won 17 tournaments and finished among the top 10 at the NCAA Division III Championship each spring.

All of that was lost in that 5-minute, 45-second dressing-down of his team.

“What I will miss the most in my time away from coaching is the opportunity to have a positive impact on student-athletes and help them through any problem they may have," Mahanic said. "People may hear the recording and think I yelled at those guys every day. Coaches know that sometimes the guys need a hug, and sometimes they need to hear the hard truth about their performance. We had a good balance in our program, and each player knew I would go to the end of the earth to help them.

“I think people should learn and improve from any situation, positive or negative, and that is what I am doing now," said Mahanic, who is looking for work and would welcome the opportunity to coach again. "I loved the eight years I spent at Huntingdon as a player and coach and wouldn't trade those experiences for anything. College will always be special to me, and I wish the college and golf program nothing but success in the future.”

J.P. Kircher, who played four years for Mahanic, said that Huntingdon would not have enjoyed the level of success it had recently without Mahanic guiding the team.

“When we did well, coach praised just as much as when he got on us,” said Kircher, a two-time All-American. “If you look at the message, he was not personally attacking anyone. He was just trying to send a message. And it’s unfortunate what happened.”

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