There is no place that has quite as much devotion to the game of basketball as the state of Kentucky. James Naismith may have created the game in Massachusetts when he hung peach baskets on the walls and organized teams to throw a ball in them, but basketball has a home in the bluegrass state.
So for the son of Michael and Carolyn Montague, there was no other sport he would grow up to play, and there would be no other sport that would prepare him for the rest of his life.
Montague grew up playing point guard in middle school, high school and on recreational teams, which led to a career on the collegiate level with Brigham Young University. While his basketball career ended after graduation, Montague continues to assist those who surround him, having learned that a positive attitude can help turn difficulties into learning opportunities.
After high school, Montague accepted a scholarship offer to play basketball for Brigham Young University. Shortly after the start of the season, the basketball team lost Bryon Ruffner to a suspension and lost other players to injury, leaving the offense in Montague’s hands.
“You look at the attendance at our games; I think some of my high school games had more fans in the stands than we did,” said Montague in an interview.
The transition from high school to college was not easy on Montague. The team lost Head Coach Roger Reid after a 1–6 start, and interim Head Coach Tony Ingle was charged with managing a roster that featured ten freshmen, four sophomores, and one junior.
The team was blown out in their first road game against the University of Washington, with the game on national television, ending with a score of 95-44.
“We had a mini-tryout and picked up a couple football players after their season was over, just for more bodies to band,” said Montague. “But Coach Ingle did a really good job of teaching us to have a positive attitude regardless of your surroundings or what is going on. Coach Ingle’s attitude helped instill that faith and confidence in us, day in and day out, we really thought we were going to win the next game.”
Now Montague has a new team of young players that he suits up for. Matt is happily married to his wife Natalie, whom he met while at school, and together they have three children, Mabire, Madison and Miles. Together they live in Orem, having returned to the area after spending a few years working in the San Francisco area. Matt wakes up every morning and helps his daughters practice for their soccer team before sending them off to school.
“I try really hard to teach my kids about things Coach Ingle taught me,” Montague said. “PMA, positive mental attitude, or AYB, are you building? In this world, there are a zillion things you can find that are negative, but there is also so much good, so many positive things all around.”
Montague’s freshmen year could have been dampened with the 25 defeats by an average of 21 points per game. Those weren’t the only losses that Montague would endure during his freshman year. On St. Patrick’s Day, Montague was informed of the death of his older sister Mindy.
“We normally called each other on Sunday, to check in with each other as family,” Montague recalled. “She had just died in the evening, and they found her on her bed with the phone in her hand.”
“I was the first one to find out in my family, and I was the one that had to call my mom and dad. I remember sitting at 2100 May Hall, in my dorm room, calling my mom and dad and telling them that Mindy had passed away and then hearing their reaction on the other end of the phone.”
The loss of a sibling was a challenge. Montague had accepted a mission call to London, England, prior to Mindy’s death.
“I learned a lot from that experience, and now have been able to relate with other people who suffer an unexpected death in the family,” Montague said.
Montague values the time that he spent at BYU playing basketball. A perusal of the records set by players here at BYU reveal names of great athletes that spent their career sweating out home games in the Marriott Center: Greg Kite, Jeff Chatman, Danny Ainge, Kresimir Cosic, Jackson Emery, Jimmer Fredette.
The assist record?
“Yeah, that’s the one record Jimmer couldn’t take from me,” Montague said with a chuckle.
Montague hasn’t given up basketball completely. He still manages to get some gym time in, whether it’s playing with the men in his church or playing soccer with his two daughters.
Matt is still quietly running the show, as he serves as a bishop in north Orem.
“Just meeting with folks, we all have different trials or problems, and there are things to work through in life,” Montague said. “Whether it’s the economy and people are struggling, or pick your situation and circumstance, you can still try to find good in difficult circumstances.”
Matt is also continuing to be blessed from his time with the basketball team.
“A buddy of mine, Nick Taggert, who walked on the team, kept in touch over the years and recommended me for an interview with Hartford Mutual Funds,” Montague said. “I interviewed, got my licenses for investing, and was able to move back to Orem and start working here.”
While the days aren’t filled with the sound of squeaking sneakers and the dribbling of a ball, Montague has found that the principles that lead to success on the court — hard work and a positive attitude — continue to help put him in a position to find victory.