Basketball has been a lifelong passion for “the Baron of Van Buren.”
Matt Rossignol became a household name around Maine as a teenager as the lightning-quick guard scored 2,257 points for the Van Buren Crusaders during the early and mid-1980s — before the 3-point shot was instituted in high school basketball.
He became a must-see experience for any sports fan from the crown of Maine to the Bangor Auditorium with memorable tournament appearances highlighted by a 51-point eruption against Schenck of East Millinocket before a sold-out crowd during the 1985 Eastern Maine Class B semifinals.
Thirty-four years later Rossignol still holds regional tournament records for total points (103) and field goals made (37).
The three-time Bangor Daily News All-Maine performer then played for four years at the University of Maine, where he scored another 1,297 points. He played a key role in one of the program’s most historic victories in 1986 when he scored 23 points during the Black Bears’ 84-81 upset of Michigan State — also at the Bangor Auditorium.
While Rossignol’s playing career eventually ended after he graduated from UMaine, his relationship with basketball has continued virtually uninterrupted.
“I’m a teacher at heart and I love basketball first of all and love spreading the game,” said Rossignol, who recently was named to his second stint as the boys varsity basketball coach at Madawaska High School.
He has taught history and social studies and coached softball there for the last 22 years.
“My knowledge hopefully can get kids hooked to the sport, and of course I know all of the kids in Madawaska because I’ve had them in class and I just thought it was a good chance for me to spread that passion to them,” Rossignol said.
This winter will mark Rossignol’s 30th as a head coach in a career that began shortly after he graduated from UMaine with a four-year stint at Houlton High School.
The 2016 Maine Basketball Hall of Fame and 2017 Maine Principals’ Association Hall of Excellence inductee then returned home to coach the Van Buren boys for five years, followed by his first nine years (1998 to 2007) at nearby Madawaska.
He then took one season off from coaching basketball before returning to the bench to coach his daughter Parise, first in middle school for two years and then for the first four years of a nine-year tenure with the Van Buren High School girls team.
During that time Parise Rossignol broke her father’s Van Buren scoring record with 2,589 career points — second in Maine high school history behind only former Lawrence of Fairfield star Cindy Blodgett — and was a four-time BDN All-Maine performer before going on to her own playing career at UMaine. She is now an assistant women’s basketball coach for the Black Bears.
“When I took the Van Buren girls job my daughter was coming through as a freshman, and after she got done the last thing I wanted to do was just get done with her,” Rossignol said, “so I told myself I’d stay five more years with the girls and see what I could do. We haven’t been as successful as I’d hoped [the Crusaders went 5-13 last winter] so I figured after five more years the girls probably needed to hear a different voice.”
Rossignol stepped down from that post during the most recent offseason, but his respite from the coaching ranks was short-lived. He was hired to replace Peter Clavette at Madawaska and take over a boys team that finished 8-10 last winter in Class C North.
“I’m stepping into a situation where Peter re-ignited the passion with these kids and I’m hoping to continue what he started,” Rossignol said.
His return to the Owls basketball bench this winter will not require any major change in coaching style. Whether leading boys or girls teams, the avid Miami Dolphins fan has followed the philosophy used with great success by former Dolphins coach Don Shula, a 1997 inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
He altered his philosophy to fit the style of his personnel.
“Most coaches have a style they would prefer to play, but I try to remember that this is not about me, it’s about the players,” Rossignol said. “My job is to try to put them in a position to win and to figure out the best style for them to do that.”