TCC basketball head coaches selected for TopConnect workshop

Special to the Outlook

Tallahassee Community College head women’s basketball coach, Matt Huddleston, and head men’s basketball coach, Zach Settembre, have been selected to participate in the inaugural TopConnect NJCAA symposium set for Oct. 8-9.

The inaugural class consists of 30 men’s basketball coaches and 11 women’s basketball coaches across all three divisions of the NJCAA.

TopConnect (formerly Villa 7) was established in 2003 by then Virginia Commonwealth Athletic Director Richard Sander as a way to identify the top basketball assistant coaches in the country and connect them with mid-major Athletic Directors. Following the recent success of TopConnect Basketball 2020, Sander and Christopher Parker, NJCAA President & CEO, began to develop a program for NJCAA head coaches. They announced a partnership in September.

Both Huddleston and Settembre are entering their second seasons at the helm of the Eagles’ hoop programs.

Huddleston was hired in August 2019 after spending the 2018-19 season as associate head coach at St. Francis (Pa.) University. His resume also includes a three-year (2012-15) stint as an assistant coach at Winthrop University, two separate one-year stops in Georgia’s high school ranks (Decatur High School, 2010-11; Vidalia High School, 2017-18) and parts of 19 seasons with the renowned Georgia Metros Basketball Club, one of the top girls AAU programs in the country.

Zach Settembre (left) and Matt Huddleston are among the coaches selected for TopConnect NJCAA’s inaugural class.
Photo courtesy TCC athletics

Huddleston inherited a freshman-laden TCC roster – 10 first-year players and one sophomore. Although a slew of injuries left him with no more than eight players for the second half of the 2019-20 season, he still guided the Eagles to a 12-14 record, punctuated by signature wins over NJCAA No. 2 Chipola College (68-62) and No. 4 Gulf Coast State College (52-42).

Settembre, who completed the 2018-19 season as Tallahassee’s interim head coach, was elevated to the full-time job four months prior to Huddleston’s hiring. All he did in 2019-20 was enjoy the best debut season for a head coach in school history, guiding the Eagles to a 27-5 record, the program’s first outright Panhandle Conference Championship since 2001, and a berth in the NJCAA Tournament.

Settembre got his first taste of college basketball at Syracuse University, where he was a student manager under Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim from 2009-12. His first coaching job came in Kentucky’s prep ranks, first as a freshman head coach at Iroquois High School Magnet Academy (2012-13) then at Ballard High School (2013-14), where he served in the same capacity.

Settembre joined legendary coach Happy Osborne’s staff at Kentucky Wesleyan for his first college coaching job before going back to the high school level. He spent two seasons as a high school assistant, including the latter at Louisville Collegiate School, which eventually named him head coach in 2017. In his lone season, he guided Collegiate to a school-record 23 wins en route to a pair of Coach of the Year honors.

He was named Panhandle Conference Coach of the Year in 2020, becoming just the fourth rookie coach to capture of the honor. Two of the previous three, Chris Jans, formerly of Chipola College and now head coach at New Mexico State, and Steve Forbes, formerly of Northwest Florida State College and now head coach at Wake Forest, are part of TopConnect NJCAA’s lineup of presenters.

In total, three panels of current Division 1 head coaches will speak of their experiences on maintaining the success once hired at the Division 1 level, making the jump from two-year to D1, and overall career development. Also, Parker and Brandon Goble, CEO of JUCOAdvocate, will hold a conversation on breaking the junior college stigma.

Since the inception of Villa 7 (now TopConnect), the program has produced numerous Division 1 head coaches including Anthony Grant (Dayton), Williams (Texas A&M), Shaka Smart (Texas), Forbes (Wake Forest), and recently Greg Gary (Mercer), Brett Nelson (Holy Cross) and Bryan Mullins (Southern Illinois).

TopConnect works in conjunction with East Tennessee State University’s Doctoral Program in Global Sport Leadership and is a subsidiary of Connected Media, LLC.