Cross was the head coach for the Tornadoes during their first season with athletics back at the college during 2008-2009 season. That season, he led TC to their first national championship before leaving a few months later. He said leaving Tornado alley was a mistake.
“I really shouldn’t have left,” Cross said. “I was young and dumb at the time. I am just thankful that Dr. Hawkins is willing to have me back and joining him in his efforts to returning this college to it’s rightful place.”
Former TC head coach William Brown III resigned in March, which led to a national search. In his three seasons at Talladega College, Brown recorded a record of 42-52.
Talladega College President Billy C. Hawkins said there were over 200 applicants for the head coaching job.
Hawkins gave Cross his first coaching job at Texas College. He said Cross was the best candidate for the job.
“Matt Cross is a man of great integrity, he is a players’ coach and it is obvious he is a great recruiter,” Hawkins said. “He has the ability to take over starter programs and programs that were failing and turn them around in a short period of time.”
The last three seasons, the Louisiana native led Lamar State Community College to a 74-30 record. During those three seasons he led Lamar State to milestones: first regular-season championship, first Region 14 tournament title, and first-ever trip to the NJCAA national tournament in Kansas. Last season, Cross was involved in an altercation which almost turned into brawl.
“All those are rumors,” Cross said. “Actually in the conference tournament this year after we played Tyler Junior College we had a little skirmish towards the end. The coach at Tyler said something to me at halftime. I didn’t say anything at the time, but after we beat them I said something back to him and one of his players actually kind of swung at me and hit me in the face. That is what that was all about. It was nothing other that.”
Cross said graduating his student-athletes is one of his top priorities. He believes education as well as basketball can create life changing opportunities.
“Education is why you come to college to get your degree,” Cross said. “I’ve had since Dr. Hawkins first gave me that job at Texas College at least 20 guys to earn their degree. My guys get their degree and to me that is the biggest thing-to get your degree. I have always felt that you can use basketball as a means to give your self a better life and through that you can earn yourself a scholarship to college. That round orange ball is going to go flat and what are you going to have to show for it. Well you need to have a degree.”
He said he also enjoys developing his players for a chance to play on the next level.
“I love to develop players and see them move on to the pro,” Cross said. “I’ve had three former players to turn pro including Jeral Davis who was here in that first championship season and the US small college Player of the Year. He has made a great living for himself through the game of basketball over in Japan.”
Over the years, Cross has earned a reputation being a player’s coach and a very talented recruiter. He believes with the right players and with their supportive administration the Tornadoes will win another national championship.
“I have a list of 100-150 guys to start recruiting,” Cross said. “You just have to find the best 11, that is what we get in NAIA. We have to find the best 11 that is going to fit into the environment and atmosphere of Talladega College as well as can win us a national championship. That is one of the main reason that I returned to Talladega College, because it is a place that I am convinced with the leadership of Dr. Hawkins, Vice President Pattio that it is a place that you can a win national championship. We have already proven that. Granted it was at a lower level then NAIA, but at the same time we hold the distinction as the first start up program in the history of college basketball to win a national championship. We are the only small program to beat five Division I teams in a single season.”
Getting local talent will be a focus for Cross and the Tornadoes. During his lone season at helm at TC, he was able to bring in All-American and Sylacauga native Tarium Taylor.
“I felt like it was important for us to seek local communities and high schools to give a local flavor into our programs,” Cross said. “We will continue to do that.”
Cross said he is thrilled to be back and he hopes that he can end the Tornadoes drought with a championship.
“It is great to be back and hopefully, we can bring more championships back to Talladega,” Cross said.