Swimming with the Shark

The university’s men’s basketball team enters a new era with the hiring of Maco “Shark” Hamilton

By Sean Patterson 

Maco Hamilton is a self-described “laid-back dude” who becomes a different person at tip-off. Suddenly, this reserved, mild-mannered father of two finds himself fist-pumping and chest-bumping his players, leaping for joy after a nail-biting win. A state-championship-winning coach at the high school level, “Coach Shark” presses for an up-tempo, frenetic style of play on the court and a commitment to good citizenship off it.

The Journal sat down with Hamilton to hear his basketball story, get his thoughts on why he came to George Fox and find out what’s up with that nickname.

Tell me your basketball story. How did you get involved in the game?

My earliest memory is, as a 2-year-old, shooting at a mini Nerf basketball hoop. We had a curtain rod with a gap, and I’d take a sock and put tape around it and shoot it into the gap. Basketball was innate with me, and I was fortunate enough to play it all through college. I played D-I [Eastern Washington], community college [Mt. Hood Community College] and small college [Eastern Oregon]. 

Why do you love the game so much?

It requires everyone to play together and be in sync with one another. When that happens, it’s such a beautiful thing to watch. 

What was your favorite basketball moment?

Without question, when I won a state championship (in 2010, as head coach at Union High School of Camas, Wash.). Those four days in Tacoma were magical. We won the final 52-51 when our best player hit two free throws with eight seconds left. We beat Enumclaw, who was undefeated and ranked No. 1, so it was a monumental upset. We became the first non-metro (Seattle area) team to win it. You could say it was a Washington state version of Hoosiers. It was the pinnacle for me. 

In light of your success at Union, why make the move to George Fox?

It was an agonizing decision. I had no reason to leave. . . . But I was blown away by everyone I met at George Fox and the commitment to athletics here. You could just sense there is a genuine desire to see the basketball program take off. And lastly, the institution itself: The values of the school match up with who I am. 

What are your goals for the 2013-14 season?

First and foremost, to establish an identity – a culture – of what I want to see. That’s even more important than how many wins we get this year. The goal is to build a great program that competes on a national level, and there has to be a foundation. I want this group of guys to be that foundation. When that is established, the winning and losing will be a byproduct of that. 

What are your long-term goals?

I never set goals in terms of intrinsic values and awards, like “We’re going for this number of wins.” Yes I want to compete for a league title and be a national contender each year, but my ultimate goal is to build a sustainable program – one in which we’re consistent in the way we play and the way kids carry themselves in the community. 

Describe your coaching style.

We get up and down the floor, we attack defensively, press the entire game, play a style that’s fun to watch and fun to play. As a person, I’m a laid-back dude. As a coach, I’m enthusiastic. You’ll see me on the sidelines, jumping up and down, animated – but not in a negative or derogatory way. I just get excited.

What is your coaching philosophy?

My philosophy is simple: Connect and build relationships with young men and help in their development. Ten years from now, unless we win a national title, people aren’t going to remember what the 2013-14 team did. What they’ll remember is if the guys from that team made an impact on society. I want guys leaving the program feeling like they’ve grown, matured, so they can be great husbands, fathers, employees and leaders. 

What role does faith play in coaching?

Faith is huge in my life and is the reason I coach. For me, this is my ministry field. It’s where God has called me to be impactful and help change lives. We all have gifts, and I think the Lord uses those gifts to better our world and advance his kingdom. We often think ministry is just being in a third-world country, handing out Bibles or serving in a church. I don’t agree with that. Whatever you do you can impact people’s lives and show God’s love. Coaching is that for me. 

What’s with the “Shark” nickname?

It got started at Mountain View High School, where I coached, and a couple guys started calling me “Shark” because Mako is a type of shark. All of a sudden, it became what everyone called me. Coaches started calling me that. Teachers did, and then students. To be honest, now when someone calls me “Maco,” I think to myself, “That person doesn’t know me very well.” 

What are your first impressions of George Fox?

The people here have been great to me. . . . My hope is that we can generate a lot of excitement not only on campus but with our alumni – and particularly among those guys who played here. We want to bring them back and for them to proudly say, “That’s George Fox – that’s where I went to school and played ball.”