Matt Lynch ended his first season as a head men’s college basketball coach for the University of South Carolina Salkehatchie by being named coach of the year in NJCAA Division 1 Atlantic District.

Lynch, the only out gay men’s college basketball coach in the country, took over a program that had been disbanded, built a roster from scratch and compiled a 20-14 record that ended with his team winning its conference tournament as the No. 7 seed and playing in the national Division I junior college tournament.

“Winning the NJCAA Atlantic District Coach of Year is a huge honor,” Lynch told Outsports. “And all the credit goes to our players. Those guys bought into a vision. They provided me with a certain amount of blind loyalty and trust.

“I knew what Salk was going to need to be built and these guys could have gone to an established program. Instead they took a chance on me and I’m so happy that they were able to climb the ladder as champions!”

While taking a job with a tiny budget, outdated facilities and literally no players was a risk for Lynch, it was also a bit of one for Salkehatchie officials in picking a novice head coach, and one who was gay, for a school in the Bible Belt. But the bet paid off for both.

“What a well-deserved honor for Coach Lynch to be named Atlantic District Coach of the Year! Since Coach Lynch began at USC Salkehatchie in December 2022, he has worked relentlessly to develop not only our men’s basketball program, but more importantly, the young men who play for him,” the schools dean, April Cone, said.   “I couldn’t be more excited that his hard work is being recognized in this manner. Coach Lynch’s leadership, work ethic, and perseverance are second to none, and I am extremely proud of him and his entire team for their accomplishments.”

The fact the Lynch is gay became a non-issue with his team, opponents, fans and fellow coaches. I only mention it because we’re an LGBTQ sports website and visibility is important. It’s a good model for other coaches considering coming out. Being LGBTQ in sports needn’t define anyone and can simply be an interesting facet of one’s personal life.

What Lynch accomplished this season was impressive. Just recruiting, fielding a team and completing the season would have been an accomplishment. Getting on a roll and winning the conference, making the national tournament and being named coach of the year is something even the relentlessly optimistic Lynch couldn’t have imagined.