Former Regis Jesuit girls basketball star Fran Belibi, right, laughs along with coach Carl Mattei as they listed to a pre-recorded message from anchors at sports network ESPN at an August ceremony at the Aurora Sports Park. Belibi, the first Colorado girls prep basketball player to dunk in a game, was honored by ESPN’s Top 10 highlight reel for one of her viral dunks. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Sentinel Colorado)

AURORA | Carl Mattei has won 399 games as a Colorado high school girls basketball coach, but if he gets win No. 400, it won’t come at Regis Jesuit.

Mattei, one of the state’s most successful coaches who built the Raiders into a perennial powerhouse — and one that appeared in the Class 5A state championship game at the end of last season — said he was informed by Regis Jesuit principal Jimmy Tricco Thursday that the school had decided to go another direction.

Mattei was stunned to get the news, which came just two days after he was at the school and distributed the plan for players to get ready for the upcoming season.

“I don’t understand what I’ve done,” Mattei told the Sentinel. “We’ve been to 13 Final Fours, I’ve been 399-91 and had 44 Division I kids and I’ve never done anything to hurt a kid. I’ve worked my butt off for this program. …After 18 years, to just get pushed out the door is the most disappointing thing you can do.”

Tricco sent out a message to the Regis Jesuit basketball community that was provided to the Sentinel which lauded Mattei for his role in building the successful program but continued to say “At Regis Jesuit, we look beyond wins and losses and seek adult mentors who care for the holistic development of our students and programs. Our termination of our agreement with Coach Mattei is a result of a growing lack of alignment with RJ leadership regarding the vision for the program and its support of the school’s mission.”

Mattei wasn’t sure where the divergence came from mentioned in the letter.

Tricco said that the school had begun the search for a new head coach and expected to have one hired “well before” the season begins.

Mattei said he will visit his native Canada soon while he processes the news and decide if and when he might want to get back into coaching.

“I’ve accomplished a lot and I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve done,” Mattei said. “I think I still have a tremendous gift in terms of helping young people. Now, I just need to decide what’s best for Carl Mattei.”

It’s a massive change in the girls basketball landscape in Colorado and especially in Aurora, where Regis Jesuit is one of only two city schools to own a state championship (along with Grandview). Mattei guided the Raiders to eight state finals appearances in his tenure and the program won back-to-back Class 5A state championships in 2014 and 2015.

It turns out Mattei’s final season ended with a loss in the 5A state championship game. He guided the Raiders to a stunning upset win over heavily-favored Grandview in the semifinals to earn a chance to play Valor Christian at World Arena in Colorado Springs.

Mattei was chosen Continental League Coach of the Year as well last season, during which his team had to be quarantined due to playing a team with possible COVID-19 exposure.

Regis Jesuit graduated both of its All-Continental League first team selections from last season in Avery VanSickle (who is now at the University of Washington) and Samantha Jones.

Mattei sent scores of players on the Division I ranks and also helped tap into the potential of Fran Belibi, who took up the game when she got to Regis Jesuit and ended up becoming the first Colorado prep girls basketball player to dunk in a game.

Belibi would go on to become a McDonald’s All-American and is currently playing at Stanford University, which won the NCAA championship last season.

Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports

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