Former NCAA Division I player excited about new head coaching role with Boyce Bulldogs

Communications Staff — August 12, 2009

Three years ago Matthew Emadi was tired of basketball and the thought of going to seminary had never crossed his mind.

But now Emadi is entering his third semester as a master of divinity student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is also the new head coach of the Boyce Bulldogs.

“I thought I would never go to seminary and I ended up going to seminary,” Emadi said. “I thought I would never do missions and I ended up going to South Africa. I thought I would never coach and now here I am coaching. That is just the way God works.

“I’m definitely excited about coaching. It is an opportunity to coach Christian guys who want to pursue the ministry. Guys who are wanting to be pastors, missionaries or [serve in] other ministry fields.”

In 2002, Emadi earned Gatorade player of the year honors for the state of Utah and was named that state’s Class 5A Most Valuable Player for his exploits during his senior year at Northridge High School in Layton, Utah.

That same year, Emadi accepted a full ride scholarship to Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, an NCAA Division I school that is famous for knocking off the University of North Carolina as a No. 14 seed in the 1999 NCAA Tournament. Emadi red-shirted his freshman season at Weber and then played for three years, before transferring to Biola University in Southern California for one season.

“Having a basketball team opens the door to unique ministry opportunities,” he said. “For example, going to prisons, playing prisoners and getting a chance to share the Gospel with them (which the Bulldogs have done in the past). It is neat to think about what kind of kingdom-building work we can do as a team.

“At the same time, basketball is not just a means for evangelism. As people created in God’s image we want to glorify God through playing basketball as well: in the way we play hard and conduct ourselves on the court.”

Background

Emadi grew up in a Christian home and became a Christian at the age of 8 or 9. His father immigrated from Iran and was converted at age 20. His parents met at North Idaho College and Emadi grew up in Utah.

“I was in a great church growing up with a faithful pastor,” Emadi said. “There are hardly any Christian churches or Christians in Utah. It is dominantly Mormon.”

After four years at Weber, three playing basketball, the rigors of NCAA Division I basketball had worn Emadi down. Little did he know that God was about to change his life through a providential encounter.

During his third year on the team at Weber, Emadi said he began contemplating a transfer. There was a Mormon student on the team who had transferred in from California. One of that student’s best friends was a Christian who played for Biola University, and he encouraged Emadi to check out the school.

After the season, Emadi called the coach at Biola, tried out and was offered a full scholarship. Emadi said God used the year at Biola to change his life.

“All of a sudden I was in this environment where there are tons of Christians my age who loved the Bible, loved God, who wanted to do missions and different ministries and that profoundly affected me,” he said. “That time at Biola opened my eyes more to ministry and kingdom of God-type work.”

Emadi only needed one more class to graduate with a business degree from Weber. He was able to take the class at Biola, and he also took several Bible and theology classes, which he said gave him a hunger for further theological study. Work with several different ministries and a mission trip to South Africa — combined with the Bible classes — convinced Emadi that he should go to seminary and pursue vocational ministry.

Coming to Louisville

After receiving his bachelor’s degree from Weber in the summer of 2007, Emadi moved to Louisville. He began taking classes at Southern in January 2008 with a biblical and theological studies emphasis in the School of Theology and met Brittany, the woman who would become his wife

They married in December and are expecting their first child in March 2010. Brittany will graduate from Southern in December with a master of arts in Christian Education.

In addition to coaching the Bulldogs on the court, Emadi said he looks forward to the discipleship role he can have in their lives off it.

“Getting to be the coach of a team with Christian guys and share some of my experiences with them, things that I have learned, is a great opportunity,” he said. “As a married guy, I’ll have an opportunity to work with them from a discipleship aspect, helping some of these younger guys. We will probably go through a book together; I’ll definitely have them over to my house.”

Practice for the Bulldogs will begin in mid-September. Emadi said he plans to hold open tryouts for the team and said he has already had several students express interest in playing. He said the team’s make-up and opponents will play a determinative factor in the type of offensive and defensive strategy he employs.

Emadi and his wife are members of New Heights Baptist Church in Louisville, where Southern Seminary Ph.D. student Cody McNutt serves as senior pastor. Emadi said he and his wife serve in whatever capacity they can, including the nursery and doing yard work, and he recently preached at the church.

Emadi said he looks forward to getting back in the game.

“I am excited. I thought I was done with basketball,” he said. “I thought I had moved past that. But now, almost two years after finishing up at Biola, I am going to be back immersed in the basketball world.”

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