Matt Lynch this fall will have the distinction of being the only out gay coach in men’s college basketball. In a case of paying it forward, Jason Collins, the NBA’s first openly gay player, is trying to help him raise money for his program.
“We have an opportunity to support a basketball program being led by the 1st & only openly gay, Men’s College Basketball Head Coach,” Collins tweeted Monday. Collins played in the NBA from 2001-14 and came out as gay in 2013. “He’s taken over a college program without a budget & is rebuilding from scratch. Please help @Lynch5_ where you can!”
Lynch, 31, is head coach at the University of South Carolina Salkehatchie, a Division I junior college that did not have a team this past year. Since taking over in January, Lynch has had to build the program from the ground up and that takes raising money, since a school like Salkehatchie does not have the athletic budget size as do larger programs.
Collins was pitching a Go Fund Me for Lynch’s program, started by Lynch’s brother, Jeremy, and named in honor of their late father, Bill. The fundraiser has been up for eight months and has raised $3,450 out of a needed $20,000, so Collins’ tweet was intended to get the word out to a wider audience.
Lynch said his budgetary goal this season is $50,000, which includes money for housing, meals, travel, jerseys, equipment (including basketballs and shoes) and officials and that he is $40,000 short. Having to be chief fund-raiser and promoter in addition to building a roster and having to coach is asking a lot, but Lynch approaches this with a positive spirit.
“My goal is $50,000,” Lynch told Outsports. “I think that if we can raise that money, that will set us up to run a first-class program.
He’s had to get creative, such as in building a roster.
“We have signed 13 guys since I took over and have have the most diverse team imaginable, with guys from five different countries,” Lynch said. “My recruiting strategy was pretty simple. I don’t have a recruiting budget, so the international route just made sense. I could build a team sitting from my computer and working the phone. My goal was to recruit high-character guys that are motivated. I love the diversity of the group.
“We’ve got guys that have been overlooked and feel like they have something to prove, just like me. While recruiting I am looking for three non-negotiables: You must play hard naturally, you must be able to pass, and you need to care about family. I think if you have those three qualities, then I can teach you the rest.”
Being a junior college coach, Lynch can offer recruits an immediate chance to play and be seen and recruited by Division I and II programs. It’s a big selling point, especially for international players, many who are not on the radar of U.S. programs.
“I am very invested in delivering a positive student-athlete experience,” Lynch said. “At the end of the day, players talk. So if I do right by these guys then that will get back to the next round of recruits and so on. I’ve recruited some great guys. Now I’ve got to help these guys mold into a family and then I’ve got to get out of their way and they’ll take care of business.”
Full disclosure: I have become close friends with Lynch since I worked with him on his coming out story in 2020. He has tons of energy, great integrity and is smart, loyal, passionate and focused. I admire him taking on the challenge of building a program from scratch and doing it as an out gay man.
This fund-raiser is a great way for LGBTQ fans to help someone who exemplifies what being out and proud means. Lynch’s success will be the community’s success, so chip in if you can.
You can follow Matt Lynch on Instagram.