The Orange Coast College water polo program will now be headed by former Long Beach State assistant coach Dan Matulis, the school announced in late May.
OCC was searching for an individual to not only coach both men’s and women’s water polo programs, but also be a full-time kinesiology instructor. This hiring complements one of OCC’s proudest projects, the construction of the new Kinesiology and Athletics Facility.
“The location is perfect. they built the nicest pool that I’ve seen at the two year collegiate level,” Matulis said. “It is state of the art.”
“OCC is a great school academically, which makes it easier to recruit to,” Matulis said.
Matulis comes into the program with over four years of experience as an assistant coach in two other Southern California colleges: Golden West College (2016-20) and Long Beach State (2019-20).
“This is my first time as a head coach, but I have quite a bit of experience as an assistant coach being with successful programs,” Matulis said. “I know what it takes to have a successful program.”
The Ohio native is no stranger to high-level competition. Matulis was a two-time All-American at CSULB before a pair of shoulder injuries hampered his career.
“I want the athletes to understand my role is to be a mentor for them — to help them to be successful in all aspects of the student athlete experience.”
Matulis described himself as “approachable and easy to communicate with. I do resemble a player’s coach in that aspect. I want the players to feel comfortable communicating with me.”
At 6’11”, Matulis stands out in the crowd. “I think it helps me to gain respect,” he said.
His towering height may not magically make the program better, but the exercises and team chemistry drills he has implemented this year might be a game changer.
“Right now the number one priority is to keep the athletes safe. That being said, we’ve only been able to meet through Zoom,” Matulis said. “We’ve really been able to look into our team policies and our team ethos. We can really establish the foundation for what is to come in these next years.”
Matulis has taken charge in some of the more behind-the-scenes duties a winning team must manage. Not being able to train in person, one of his priorities is to make sure players are getting in practice on their own time with their own equipment, if any.
“As far as training, it’s all about at-home workouts or supporting athletes by providing workouts that are appropriate for what they have access to,” he said. “Some athletes have pools at home; others don’t have that same access. It’s really important to be adaptable.”
That adaptability will hopefully carry over to this coming spring, when athletics aim to resume.
One of the biggest questions Matulis faces is whether or not he can keep the men’s program at the level they played at last year. In 2019, the men’s team went 17-7 with trips to both the Orange Empire Conference Championship and the SoCal Regional Championship.
“It's hard to compare season to season. There’s just so much influx of players coming in and out with the two year system,” he said. “I have no doubt we will be a successful team. I think we will be a really good team – I really do.”