Workaholic attitude fuels ASU women's tennis assistant coach

Matt Langley's ability to decode an opponent's weaknesses helps players win

After former ASU women’s tennis assistant coach Clint Letcher decided to take a break from coaching, head coach Sheila McInerney said she opened the position and received numerous applicants.

But when McInerney was with her team at the 2015 NCAA tournament, she had multiple coaches come up to her and recommend the same name for the position. That name was Matt Langley.

“They spoke really highly of him,” McInerney said. “He was one of our few interviews and I felt really comfortable with him. He is a super guy with high integrity and a great work ethic. He is a great recruiter and knows tennis. He checked all the boxes.”

McInerney said those qualities, along with loyalty, is what she looks for in someone that she will work and collaborate with daily.

For all those reasons and more the program announced the hiring of Langley in May 2015. McInerney said the two have similar philosophies for the way the game should be played, something that can be crucial in getting the team on the same page.

Langley joined the Sun Devils after spending time as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Middle Tennessee State University. With his help, the Blue Raiders complied one of the program’s best seasons, finishing with a 19-5 record and 7-1 against Conference USA opponents in 2014-15.

As a player at Middle Tennessee State, the Australian native served as a co-captain for two seasons and was the Sun Belt Conference Champion three times over. He was named the MVP of the Sun Belt twice at the conference championships, and he appeared at NCAA’s three times.

But the two-time academic All-American and ITA Scholar Athlete always wanted to coach — something he started even before his playing days were over. 

“I just turned 27, but I have already been involved in coaching for over 10 years,” Langley said. “I coached five or six-year old’s when I was 16 as a side job."

Langley, who graduated from MTSU with an exercise science degree, has coached at various country clubs in New York, but said his real passion is teaching college players.

Langley said he choose ASU because it is a great place to live for him and his wife, and the reputation that ASU women’s tennis has built was a key factor. He also loved that Vice President of University Athletics Ray Anderson expressed a desire to support the program.

“I have had a passion for tennis from the time I first picked up a racket and started playing,” Langley said. “I love all sports, but I love watching other people play it and I love playing it myself. I love working with a team and the team dynamic of sport; getting the most out of players.”

Langley has shown an ability to break down opponent’s weaknesses mid-match, something that he said comes from his playing style. Senior Kassidy Jump has received plenty of advice from Langley during matches. She said Langley’s game style is fun to play against in practice, and she said the vocal energy that he brings during matches is unparalleled.

“He helps us both by hitting with us and coaching us and I think he brings endless energy,” Jump said. “I will do my come on and fist pumps to him; he brings that energy with me.”

During her time at ASU, Jump said Langley has helped several parts of her game grow and develop.

“He has impacted my serve and forehand the most,” Jump said. “My backhand was never a problem before I came here (to ASU), whereas my serve and forehand both constantly need to be kept up with. He has really helped and they have both improved.”

Sophomore Sammi Hampton said Langley and she have built a strong relationship. She said Langley’s ability to bond with players off the court translates into great play on the court.

“Off the court, he builds this trust and friendship to where he is not going to boss you around, but you respect him,” Hampton said. “He jokes with us and so we laugh and we have good energy with him.”

Hampton said Langley has helped her improve her forehand and simplify match strategy. ASU's No. 2 singles player said Langley can feel how different players’ balls feel when he returns a shot at practice, and he can suggest adjustments based off that.

Specifically, she credited Langley for helping her hit a different shot with a mid-match adjustment against Oregon last week

“I was hitting a flat ball, but he was telling me that it is easy to hit back," Hampton said. "When I hit a heavy ball, that is harder to hit back, so he gives direct feedback."

In general, Langley said he preaches simplicity in both singles and doubles. For him, that means a high percentage of first serves and returns.

“They might be selling me a little high,” Langley said jokingly of his in-match strategy skills. “As a player, I wasn’t the biggest hitter out there and had to find different ways to break opponents down, and I really enjoyed doing that. As a coach, I enjoy helping our girls figure out their opponent.”

During practice, because eight athletes are working on different parts of the game on four courts, McInerney, Langley and graduate assistant coach Ebony Panoho like to divide up the coaching and work one on one with players.

Along with his duties with the current roster, McInerney praised the time and energy he puts in to international recruiting.

“If you can have someone out at practice every day that is better than your best player, that is obviously helpful,” McInerney said. “He is here every morning at eight o’clock.”

Going forward, Langley said he is focused on helping ASU win, but he said becoming a head coach one day has entered his mind. And McInerney gave a ringing endorsement for Langley as a future head coach, if that is path he chooses.

“He would be a really good head coach; he could take over the program right now no doubt about it,” McInerney said.


Reach the reporter at jpjacqu1@asu.edu or follow @joejacquezaz on Twitter.

Like State Press Sports on Facebook and follow @statepresssport on Twitter.


Get the best of State Press delivered straight to your inbox.