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Matt Vautour: I can’t believe they paid me for this

  • Matt Vautour interviews former UMass coach John Calipari during the 2016-17 men’s basketball season. Gazette Staff / Matt Vautour

  • Wherever Matt Vautour was working during his 20 years at the Gazette, there was sure to be a stack of disheveled papers nearby. Gazette Staff / Matt Vautour



@MattVautour424
Thursday, May 17, 2018

I wasn’t expecting to stay here long.

When I first got hired at the Daily Hampshire Gazette in 1997, I thought it would be a short stint, a couple years and then onto the next thing. I wasn’t sure what the next thing was, I just thought being successful meant climbing the ladder.

I was 23 when I started, technically an adult, but still far from figuring out how to be one. In equal measure, working at the Gazette both helped me figure out how to be an adult and, at the same time, allowed me never to have to do it fully.

Most of the time doing this job hasn’t felt like work. So many times, I remember thinking “I can’t believe I’m getting paid to be here.”

Big events like the triple overtime Hockey East championship, the Division I-AA Championship games or UMass’ ridiculous men’s lacrosse comeback to reach the 2006 Final Four, and smaller ones like sitting in packed gyms for the great Hopkins and Smith Academy rivalry games.

The pull of the ladder wasn’t as strong as my enjoyment of the job and the people I worked alongside. The stories of the next season always held my anticipation and the Gazette was always dedicated to committing the resources to making UMass coverage a priority.

I’ve spent more time (awake anyway) at 115 Conz St. than in any other building I’ve ever been in. Back when we were an afternoon paper, I pulled a couple all-nighters finishing off coverage of a late-night hoop game.

I met my wife for the first time mere feet away from the messy desk where I’m currently writing this. I guarantee there are old takeout pizza menus buried in my filing cabinet that are older than Carl Pierre. It’s going to feel bittersweet to leave for the last time Friday night. I’ve had a lot of fun.

For a while now I didn’t expect to ever leave. I figured I’d be covering Rashaan Holloway Jr. and Ray Thomas-Ishman Jr. when they enrolled in their dads’ alma mater sometime in the 2030s and that would have been fine by me.

But I’ve got an exciting opportunity at MassLive to write about the teams I started following when I was little Rashaan’s and little Ray’s age that is too good to turn down.

I could fill this entire column with thank you’s and doing that is tempting. But I’ll keep it (kinda) short.

Good fortune granted me great people to travel with over the years from the broadcast teams to other writers to my journalism little brothers and sisters at the Collegian, who put up with my incessant need to find the best barbecue joints in the Atlantic 10.

I’ve gotten to know a lot of great coaches, athletes, managers, trainers and administrators at UMass, who’ve been terrific to be around. I owe many of them a lifelong debt of gratitude for being flexible and accommodating to me when my newborn son had a long stint in the hospital. I’ll always appreciate that.

But most of what made coming to work fun everyday was the people I spent so many of those newsroom hours with. I’ll always be proud to have been part of this team.

I was lucky to work with Deb Oakley, who hired me despite not entirely knowing what to make of me sometimes, Andy Ayres, Ed Kubosiak, Scott Mahar, Andy Walter, Corey Goodman, Nate Crossman, Scott Cacciola, David Abramowitz, Rob Fucci, Amy Jo Griesert, Jim Pignatiello, Stan Moulton, Sarah Moomaw, Mike Wilkinson, Adam Hargraves, Kyle Grabowski and finally Mike Moran, my boss for a long time and my friend for longer. I won’t be a Gazette sports writer any more, but I’ll be a Gazette sports reader for at least as long as he’s guiding the ship.

Finally, I’m thankful to the people who trusted me enough to tell their stories and to the people who read them. It’s been fun meeting and talking to so many of you over the years.

In some ways, I feel like I’m returning a riveting library book before I finished reading it. I’m curious to know whether the UMass football team can reach bowl eligibility this year, if the hockey team can get to the NCAA Tournament and how big a jump the basketball team can make.

It’s an odd feeling to know I won’t be writing those stories, but I look forward to reading them.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mattyv424@gmail.com