Matt Coleman’s legacy shows more than just winning

Matthew Boncosky

Numerous high-profile athletes with gaudy single-season performances have come through the Texas men’s basketball program, but few players had the four-year impact of senior guard Matt Coleman.

Coleman, who announced his decision to turn professional Thursday via Instagram, leaves the Forty Acres as one of the most consistent point guards to don the burnt orange. He ranks third all-time at Texas with 477 assists, fourth all-time in minutes played and has started in all 128 games over the course of his career.

But what stands out most to his teammates isn’t Coleman’s on-court accolades. It’s how he carries himself outside the boundaries of the hardwood.

“He’s such a great guy, and I say that in the most genuine way possible,” sophomore forward Kai Jones said at a March 8 teleconference. “He’s been somebody who’s been helpful to me since I first got here.”

Jones credited Coleman as an integral piece in his choice to come to Texas. When the forward from the Bahamas toured Austin as a high schooler, Coleman was his host. 

“He’s just one of the greatest people you’ll ever come in contact with,” Jones said. “And then on the court, you know, he’s a bad dude.”

When the game was on the line, every Longhorn looked to Coleman for an answer.

Whether it was crushing the hearts of Oklahoma fans with a full-court sprint followed by a buzzer beater that banked in off the glass, lifting Texas to the Maui Invitational Tournament title on a step-back jumper against North Carolina or calmly sinking two clutch free throws against Texas Tech in the Big 12 Tournament, the examples of Coleman’s on-court dependability are numerous.

But it was never just about winning for Coleman.

As a point guard tasked with coordinating and orchestrating the offensive attack, Coleman’s role involved much more than scoring the game-winning bucket. He served as the team’s primary distributor, striving to get others involved so they could be just as successful as him — the true mark of a veteran leader.

“There’s a sense of joy and unselfishness that I see (when) you’re just having fun (and) you’re happy to be playing the game of basketball,” Coleman said. “You’re happy for the guy next to you making an extra play, cheering them on.”

This year was particularly special for Coleman, who will graduate in May with a degree in communication and leadership. Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, Coleman led Texas to the program’s first-ever Big 12 Tournament title.

“There were a lot of trials and tribulations, a lot of ups and downs, a lot of emotions, a lot of blood, sweat and tears,” Coleman said at a Thursday teleconference. “But (I want to be remembered as) someone who was able to stick through the tough times and always had a smile on his face, played with passion, joy, excitement and was just unselfish at the end of the day.”

For junior guard Courtney Ramey, who will take over much of Coleman’s responsibilities next season, playing alongside Coleman was one of the biggest reasons why he chose to play at Texas.

“I wanted to play with a guy like that to learn from and just be a part of what he had going, and he accepted me with open arms, so I appreciated that from him,” Ramey said. “He’s a great leader, and in some ways I’ve watched (him) from afar to learn things from so when things are handed over to me, then I can just take off.”