In their own words: Players sum up CSE coach Matt Long’s impact after he reaches 600-victory plateau during regular season


Central-Southeastern girls basketball coach Matt Long became the 16th coach in Illinois High School Association history to record 600 career victories. | Matt Schuckman photo

CAMP POINT, Ill. — During the 25-2 regular-season record the state-ranked Central-Southeastern girls basketball team compiled, a milestone moment occurred that allowed current and former Panthers to celebrate the impact of their coach.

Matt Long, who has been at the helm since the 1993-94 season, won the 600th game of his career, becoming just the 16th coach in Illinois High School Association history to reach the historic victory total.

It came in a 78-43 victory over Cissna Park on January 20.

Since then, the Panthers have rattled off seven more victories and take a 17-game win streak into the postseason, which begins with a Class 2A regional quarterfinal matchup with Pittsfield at 6 p.m. Monday in Camp Point.

Several of Long’s former and current players offered their thoughts on what makes him a special and successful coach. Here’s are their thoughts in their own words:

Current and former Central-Southeastern girls basketball players celebrate Matt Long’s 600th coaching victory following the 78-43 victory over Cissna Park on Janaury 20 in Camp Point, Ill. | Photo courtesy Mike Pritchard

Lauren Miller, Class of 2025

“Coach Long is so passionate about the game but he cares about his players individually just as much. He loves us like daughters and we know that he would always be there for us if we ever needed him, basketball related or not. From the basketball perspective I’ve never seen a coach strategize or just pay attention to the smallest details like he does. He pours so much time and effort into preparing us for games and practices. The list of things that he does behind the scenes for all of our sports as an AD is extensive. He strives to make every program run efficiently and successfully which he doesn’t get enough credit for either.”

Libby Ippensen, Class of 2022

“Coach Long is special! He not only pushes you to be the best you can in the gym, but also in the real world. He puts more into his team and players than anyone will ever know.”

Kolby McClelland Henness, Class of 2017

“Coach Long is the greatest coach I ever played for in my athletic career, and it was an honor to be coached by him. He truly cares about all of his players on and off the court, which is pretty special. He is such a successful head coach because he knows what it takes to win, and consistently pushes his players to be the best they can be. He’s the type of coach that will never give up, and he will continue to battle when most wouldn’t.”

Brianna Hildebrand, Class of 2017

“Coach Long’s success is a testament of how much heart and dedication he has put into the CSE basketball program. He has a unique way of motivating and encouraging his players to be their best, and the impact he makes goes beyond the court. Coach Long truly makes you feel like family, and it is an honor to have had the opportunity to play for him.”

Brooke Vonholt Ensley, Class of 2011

“Coach Long takes a genuine interest in his players and pushes them to be the best they can be. He always stressed, ‘There is no ‘I’ in team,’ which resulted in camaraderie and in turn made successful teams. He taught me life lessons that have molded me into who I am today.”

Johanna Stephens Voss, Class of 2000

“Coach Long understood the importance of connecting with his athletes. He found out what made each person tick and found common ground with them. Some he could joke with, others he had to be gentle with and not scare off, and others he could reach down deep to their competitive side and yell at them in front of a full gym. Through those connections he built a foundation of trust that led to teammates becoming a unit (a family). 

“He put the hours in and showed us the work. Always the first one in the gym and last to leave. His practice plans were intense, scouting reports were more detailed than some I got in college and his expectations were high. He never allowed you to settle, always challenging you to do better, be better. 

“Over the years as I make it back to games occasionally I love sitting behind the bench to hear him talk to his athletes during timeouts. You can tell that he explains the game on a deeper level and they understand it by their responses. He is teaching the game of basketball but also developing their minds, character and work ethic for life beyond basketball. 

“He truly has a great basketball mind that we have all been lucky to learn from. He has a big heart that is often hidden behind a fierce glare and loud yell. He cares not only about the growth and development of the game but if each athlete that comes through that program. It’s the relationship and connection.”

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