Matt Hoeppner saw the recent success — 56 victories in the past three seasons — an all-stater returning and an established youth program.

When Ron O'Brien stepped down as Davenport North's girls basketball coach last month for family reasons, the opening piqued Hoeppner's interest.

"Ninety-nine percent of the time when a job opens, something went wrong, they want a new person or it wasn't the right fit," Hoeppner said. "They have everything rolling over there at North."

Hoeppner will get an opportunity to build on the foundation O'Brien established the past four seasons.

The 35-year-old, who has spent the past nine seasons as the head sophomore girls coach at Rock Island, is North's new coach pending school board approval.

Born and raised in Cedar Falls, Hoeppner spent time helping Thad Hoover with his youth programs in Charles City. Once Hoover came to Rock Island, Hoeppner joined him.

"They're getting a guy that really is ready and willing to run his own program," Hoover said. "As we've moved along the last five to six years, he ran that (sophomore) program. I had very little say in what we did from day-to-day. The only way that can happen is if he's doing a good job."

Hoover said Hoeppner won five Western Big Six Conference titles at the sophomore level in nine seasons.

"It is a loss for us, but we're happy for him," Hoover said.

Hoeppner runs an in-home day care in Davenport, eight to 10 kids with a couple of helpers.

Now, he'll be overseeing four grade levels of girls basketball at North.

"I'm going from good kids to more good kids," Hoeppner said.

Hoeppner admitted it was a difficult decision to leave Hoover and Rock Island.

"Tough doesn't describe it," he said. "It was very, very hard."

North has won back-to-back Mississippi Athletic Conference titles, but five seniors, including Iowa signee Jinaya Houston and Jacionna Stowers, are gone.

The Wildcats bring back MAC player of the year Paige Bradford (19.9 ppg., 9.6 rpg.) and starter Coral Dillie along with several other reserves.

Like Rock Island, Hoeppner's system will be predicated on pressure at both ends of the floor.

"We want to pressure the ball defensively, and offensively we want to pressure the defense," Hoeppner said.

Football was Hoeppner's primary sport growing up. High school coaching greats Pat Mitchell (Cedar Falls) and Ed Thomas (Aplington-Parkersburg) were some of his biggest influences.

"The way they carried themselves and talked to players and treated players, that's when I knew this was something I'd like to do," he said.

Hoeppner will start to build those relationships with his new players Tuesday at a team meeting. The objective for the summer on the court, Hoeppner said, is to get his man-to-man defensive principles installed.

"The basketball will always be there," he said. "It'll be important this summer to improve, work hard and get after it, but we'll want to build those relationships and I want to know each kid and who they are as people.

"That'll be very important to our success come the winter."


Prep sports editor, with emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 17 years, the last five at the Quad-City Times.