By Wesley Wilcox | firstname.lastname@example.org
For Flagler basketball player Matt Clark, being the youngest hasn’t just been about living up to the expectations of a historic basketball family, but being able to put the final touches on a legacy. The Clark family has been one drenched in the sport of basketball from the great Gene “Torchy” Clark to Matt’s father, head Flagler men’s basketball coach Bo Clark. Torchy Clark, Bo’s father, is known for being one of NCAA Basketball’s most legendary figures becoming the University of Central Florida’s first ever men’s coach.
It’s a legacy that came to a close on Feb. 24, which was not only the last game of the 2015-16 season for the Flagler Saints, but also for the Clark family when Matt played his last game in a Saints uniform.
Matt Clark, the youngest of the three brothers who all played at Flagler under their father, is the most legendary of the three in program history. Upon Matt’s arrival at Flagler College he had to earn his way up, “Matt doesn’t call me dad at practice. You always want to be fair to all your players,” said Bo. Matt did just that; rather than crack under pressure, he embraced what Bo calls “thick skin”. Matt in his freshman year came out of the gates electric from the field averaging 15.2 PPG. Entering his junior season, Bo wanted a scorer off the bench, and decided Matt was the perfect fit, “Matt was the 6th man,” said Bo. In his senior season at Flagler College, Matt finished the season averaging a career-best 15.9 PPG.
Matt Clark possesses some of the same traits that his father gives off and that is humility and a strong believer in faith, as well as a legendary career. Matt on his Senior Day was awarded a basketball commemorating his accomplishment of reaching 1,000 points in his career, “It’s a special feeling being here for four years. This is the first time I’ve scored 1,000 points,” said Matt. Matt himself has done the unthinkable and left one final stamp for the Clark name is his career here at Flagler College, but he remains humble on his career and being the final Clark to play for Coach or dad, “It’s really special. Been so fortunate to be the last one. I look up to both of my brothers,” said Matt. With Matt being the final of three brothers, the epic saga of the Clark family ends with him, “It’s been an incredible ride. It has not hit me yet, but it will. I am going to miss the game of basketball, my teammates, the fans, everything about it,” said Matt.
Unlike Matt, J.P and David did not have the privilege of watching two brothers play before them at Flagler College, but Matt could not have been more honored about the opportunity, ”My brothers were my idols. They were always in the gym and watching sports, so I was always in the gym and watching sports. Everything they did, I did growing up.”
When Bo was asked about what the feeling would be when the clock hits 00:00 he simply sat back in his chair and saw a different side of the legendary coach: Bo Clark the father. “I was thinking about it. It’s cool from the standpoint that he’s (Matt) been coming to watch Flagler since he was a kid. He’s had the chance to watch Flagler greats like John Randolph, DJ Ferguson, and John Pietkiewicz. I’m sure it will be emotional when the buzzer goes off,” said Bo. As a father Bo had nothing but a smile, “I’m very proud of him as a person, and the man he has become.”
For Bo Clark, Matt is the last in a long line of great players. Before Matt laced up his first pair of basketball shoes it all began with Torchy Clark. In his tenure from 1969-83, Torchy Clark accumulated the most wins in program history with 274. On the way to that record Torchy Clark never had a losing season with five Sunshine State regular season titles, one conference tournament title, six NCAA tournament appearances in fourteen seasons, finishing inside the top 10 National Division II poll seven straight seasons, and the historic 1978 season which saw the Knights ride a twenty-four game win streak into the Final Four in Springfield, Missouri.
Enter the first in the long line of Clark’s to play for their fathers, Bo Clark. Bo was a standout high school basketball player at Bishop Moore High School in Orlando, Florida getting offers from schools such as the University of Florida amongst others, “when I was a kid, and he (Torchy) was at Xavier High School in Appleton, Wisconsin, I knew I wanted to play for him. If my dad was at Western Washington, I was going to Western Washington,” said Bo. “My dad never pressured me to play at UCF”, and following his senior year campaign Bo took his talents to Orlando, Florida to play for Torchy.
In Bo’s career at UCF he was a 3-time NCAA Division II All-American, holds 13 scoring records, and led the nation his junior year with 31.6 PPG in 1977. When Bo was asked if he felt the need to carry on Torchy Clark’s legacy of success he simply said “my dad gave me a drive, a determination, dedication” that allowed him to have an impeccable collegiate career. His UCF career did not end though after his final game, with UCF recognizing his achievements for the program by retiring his jersey number 23 alongside his father in the first UCF Hall of Fame in 1998.
After concluding his career as a Knight, Bo Clark did the unimaginable and followed in his father’s footsteps becoming a coach with the rest becoming history. In 1982, Bo Clark was hired as the Flagler College Men’s Basketball coach, “My dad got me the interview at Flagler” Bo said. When asked about how he ended up at Flagler, “it truly was a divine intervention. Dr. Proctor is from Central Florida, and knew about the Clark family. I’ve been really fortunate working for Dr. Proctor and Dr. Abare.”
In the thirty seasons Bo Clark has had at Flagler College he has amassed a 473-342 (58%) record at the helm of the men’s program. In his career at Flagler, Clark has posted twenty wins or more in a season ten times, reaching the NAIA Sweet Sixteen for three seasons in a row, and of course has coached all three of his sons J.P, David, and Matt. Bo remained humble even after all of his success thanking God, “Faith. No doubt about it. My dad would say the same.” With the heavy task of running a collegiate basketball program, Bo turned to his wife, Nancy to take on the role of getting the boys to and from practice, “The MVP of our family is my wife (Nancy). She’s been an unbelievable person. She’s been to 2,000 games! She loved taking the boys to the games and being a team mom,” said Bo.
Bo could haven’t written it better, but not only did one son come to play for him, but all three took their basketball talents to Saint Augustine. Bo grew up around success and the game of basketball, but when asked about the kind of approach he took compared to his father when coaching his three sons he remained in coaching mode, “My players know I can get intense, but my dad was super intense. Whenever you’re the coaches son, you have to have thick skin.” Bo would get the chance to coach his two oldest sons in J.P and David with J.P having a magnificent high school career averaging 24 PPG for Nease High School, but fought injuries during his three-year career at Flagler. J.P in his career at Flagler did not have a massive role due to the injuries that plagued his career, but Bo says it only opened his eyes to his true calling, “missing his senior year put him on the path towards coaching,” where J.P is now an Assistant Coach for Players Skills for the NBA Los Angeles Clippers under Head Coach Doc Rivers.
Unlike J.P and David, Matt got the best seat in the house to watching all the Flagler games, the practices, and the legendary players that came to play for Bo here at Flagler. David was a standout player at Pedro Menendez High School, but at Flagler he was a key role player who came off the bench. “David is the smartest one in the family as far as academics,” said Bo. David now works for Merrill Lynch in Jacksonville, Florida as a Financial Consultant.
The full-circle-cycle that is the Clark legacy in the sport of basketball could not have happened had it not been for the original father-son combination of Bo and Torchy, both of which Matt thanks everything for, “My dad never pressured me into playing basketball. He always gave me the opportunity to pursue whatever I wanted. I just always had a passion to play basketball, and to follow under my families legacy,” said Matt. As for Matt being the humble, selfless player and person he is, he thanks none other than his grandfather, “My grandpa always taught me sports should make you a better person, if they don’t then find the road that takes you home to God.” “My grandfather always taught me to always be a good person in life, no matter the circumstances,” he added.
Looking back over the course of his coaching career Bo Clark has amassed quite the resume, but none could make him prouder than coaching his three sons, “I’m really proud of all three of my sons. The Clark family has a great history of the father-son dynamic. I’m thankful to Dr. Proctor and President Abare. I owe a lot of gratitude towards them,” said Bo.
Following his final game for the Saints, Matt has made the decision to take up coaching, “Just like my dad, J.P, and Dave, God has a plan for me, whether that plan is with the NBA or a college team. He will make the decision,” said Matt.