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Gay college basketball coach Matt Lynch is set to make history on Wednesday

Basketball coach Matt Lynch wearing a red athletic shirt and AirPods while taking a bathroom selfie.

It’s been three years since Matt Lynch publicly came out as gay. And tonight, the trailblazing men’s basketball coach is set to make history.

When Lynch steps onto the court Wednesday, he’ll solidify his spot as the only publicly out head coach of a men’s college basketball program at any level. An experienced assistant, Lynch is head coach of the University of South Carolina Salkehatchie, a member of the National Junior Athletic Association.

The small school, which is located in Walterboro (population 5,398), hired Lynch last December. The team didn’t play last season, after their previous head coach quit abruptly.

That means Lynch is basically restarting the program. It’s a tall order, but one that Lynch is proud to tackle as an out gay man.

“My internal battles with my sexuality took me years to figure out, and it’s still something I am attempting to figure out,” he told Outsports. “But it does amaze me how something that I once tried so hard to change has now become such an ‘average’ part of my daily life.”

Lynch penned his coming out essay in April 2020, right at the onset of COVID. The piece went viral, prompting him to appear on The Tampon Hall Show and be featured on Forbes‘ “30 under 30.”

In the essay, Lynch talks about how he buried his personal feelings and focused on work, forging any opportunities for self-reflection.

COVID forced him to pause, and evaluate what’s truly important in life.

As it turns out, happiness was at the top of his list.

“I think it’s important for me to be publicly out,” he wrote. “Not only for me and my mental health, but for anyone else out there like me.”

After coming out, Lynch’s friends and family instantly noticed his newfound confidence.

“I have just this light about me when I walk into a room,” he said in a 2021 interview. “I lift the mood of the entire room. That was a direct quote of what my sister told me just a couple of weeks ago. From a personal standpoint, I just feel happy.”

Though Lynch gained valuable experience working as an assistant at UNC Wilmington and Chowan University in Division II, his job at USC Salkehatchie is all-encompassing. In addition to recruiting 14 players from five different countries, he’s in charge of finding people to work the scorer’s table, concession stand and team merchandise store.

He’s also been tasked with writing his own media releases, and renovating the locker room. Lynch estimates he’s spent up to $4,000 out of his own pocket preparing for the season.

“It’s been life lesson after life lesson after life lesson,” he said. “I’m learning a lot and it will make me much better.”

Interestingly, one of the easiest parts of Lynch’s offseason was coming out to his players. He spoke his truth at a summer team retreat in Wilmington, N.C., and the topic never came up again.

“This next part of the conversation pisses me off that I have to tell you I’m gay,” he told his players. “Not one of you had to say you were straight. It’s just me being transparent.”

There have been only six out gay male pro basketball players in the history of the sport, meaning there’s a severe dearth of LGBTQ+ representation on the men’s side. But to Lynch’s players, his resume matters the most.

He’s been coaching for 14 years, and sold his players on the opportunity to be part of something special.

“Everyone on our roster was looking for a home at this time last year. These young men could have chosen to ‘buy a house,’ as in join a program that was already solidified,” he said.

“But instead they chose to come here and ‘build a home’ with me, as in be part of the foundation of this program. So that’s what Year 1 is about, building. Building our culture, our habits, our relationships on campus and in the community, and our standards.”

The journey begins Wednesday night. We can’t wait to see how the season unfolds.

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