Matt Lynch has long wanted to be a head coach of a college men’s basketball program. Now the 31-year-old will get his chance after being hired as the head coach of the University of South Carolina Salkehatchie, a Division I junior college.
With the hire, Lynch becomes the only publicly out gay male head coach of a men’s program in college basketball.
Since coming out as gay in an Outsports article in 2020, Lynch has coached the past two seasons as an assistant at Chowan University, an NCAA Division II program in North Carolina, where he coaches under his best friend, Rob Burke.
Leaving Burke and Chowan was not an easy decision, but landing a head coaching job was too much for Lynch to turn down.
“It’s a dream come true,” Lynch told Outsports. “I’ve fantasized about this opportunity for 10-plus years. I’m finally going to have the opportunity to call a timeout!
“I was attracted to this position because of the opportunity to build a program from scratch. [USC Salkehatchie] did not have a season this year, we have to carry 25 guys on the roster [and are currently at zero]. It’s a blank canvas and I get to be Picasso.
“I was also very intrigued by the administration. We have a ‘new’ dean in Dr. [April] Cone, we have a ‘new’ athletic director in Coach [Jeremy] Joye, we have a ‘new’ assistant dean for enrollment and student success in Dr. [Brandon] Wright. We all get to go figure this thing out together and build towards Dean Cone’s vision.”
“Matt’s background and level of professionalism will be a great fit for USC Salkehatchie,” athletic director Joye said. “He has coached at a variety of levels and served in multiple capacities. At our level, that is a huge advantage, as coaches are often required to oversee all aspects of the program.
“The enthusiasm he possesses for developing young men in ways that extend beyond the court and for building relationships within the community is apparent. We are very excited to welcome Coach Lynch to the Salkehatchie family.”
Lynch’s hire is effective today and he will have his work cut out for him at UC Salkehatchie. The school suspended its program this season after its last head coach left abruptly to take an assistant job at a Division I school.
This will mean recruiting from scratch for a season that will start in Fall 2023, as well as raising money for things like travel and scholarships.
USC Salkehatchie, with two campuses about 45 miles from Charleston, competes in the highest division of JC basketball and its men’s teams have had success in the past.
“Every job comes with its fair share of opportunities and obstacles, And USC Salk is no different,” Lynch says. “The biggest obstacle will be fundraising. I have been at the Division I (NCAA) level for most of my career, and I want to run my program at Salk in a first-class manner. In order to do that I will have to be elite at relationship building and fundraising.
“I’ll have to fundraise for scholarships, travel, gear, food and more to help ensure that my guys can have the best student-athlete experience possible. We have a unique facility that just needs a little TLC. I think once we finish with the cosmetic changes and get our fan base reengaged, we will rival any other venue in [our] region.
“Walterboro [S.C.] is a historic city and I look forward to making a difference within the community and getting that community back inside our building.”
Lynch came out publicly as gay at the start of the pandemic after just losing his job at the University of North Carolina Wilmington when the staff was fired. He has gained national attention for being an out coach in a sport bereft of them. He has not shied away from being an advocate for LGBTQ people in sports.
“There were periods in my life where I clearly wasn’t ready to be who I am, and that’s OK — this process is a marathon, not a sprint,” he wrote in a follow-up to his coming out story.
Asked what being hired as an openly gay head coach meant, Lynch was reflective.
“I’m just Matt,” he said. “And I am so thrilled to have the opportunity at Salk to just go be me. It probably sounds so simple — as it should be. I value people, and let the rest take care of itself.”
Lynch’s brother Jeremy has set up a GoFundMe account to raise money for the USC Salkehatchie men’s basketball program. The fund is named in honor of their father, Bill, who died from COVID-19 two years ago.
Lynch’s hire is historic in that he’s believed to be the first out gay male to be hired as the head coach of a men’s college basketball team at any level. In addition, being hired by a school in the Bible Belt shows that times are changing and that USC Salkehatchie officials wanted to hire the best person for the job.