Lewis takes over men’s basketball

The morning of May 1 was busy for UW Oshkosh men’s basketball assistant coach, Matt Lewis. The man who brought him to UWO had just announced that he was leaving to take a job at Division III Washington University in St. Louis.

Lewis was tasked with moving the team forward after the coach who had spent six years with him at UWO and had recruited everyone on the team was moving on in his own capacity.

Although Lewis was there for the players during this difficult time, he said the upperclassmen took the reins on getting better for next season.

“Those players did a great job of just bonding themselves together because there was a couple weeks where they didn’t know the future looked like,” Lewis said. “I think just our senior leaders and our upperclassmen in general did a really good job of pulling guys together and getting us focused to move forward again.”

Lewis, unlike numerous other college and even professional coaches, was ready to take over the program. He was offered the position as interim head coach on May 17 and immediately began recruiting.

Lewis described the unique way he was offered the head coaching position by UWO Athletic Director Darryl Sims. Lewis had been on a post-basketball season vacation in Paris, France with his fiancée and was visiting the Eiffel Tower when he got an email notification asking him if he would like to accept the job.

“I clicked accept when I was in the Eiffel Tower and then we went and celebrated in Paris,” Lewis said.

Before coming to UWO, Lewis played college basketball and received a degree in economics and business from Cornell College in Iowa. The 2010 graduate started 52 games during his career while leading the Rams to a 2009 D-III tournament appearance. Lewis also was awarded a first team all-conference nomination in the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference during his senior season.

After graduation, Lewis served as the director of basketball operations for Tulane University from 2010 to 2012.

Lewis then began his career as an assistant coach at Rhodes College of Tennessee in 2010. He also completed coaching internships at Division I Tulane University and his alma mater, Cornell College of Iowa.

After going through multiple stints as an assistant coach and going to basketball camps for the San Antonio Spurs, Lake Forest College of Illinois, Lawrence University and Viterbo University, Lewis finally got his shot at a head coaching gig.

Lewis said a lot of what he knows about basketball and coaching can be attributed to his predecessor at UWO, Pat Juckem.

“He’s one of the most positive guys that I’ve been around,” Lewis said. “He’s always energetic, and we talk about having passion buckets that are overflowing, and he was always just really passionate about everything that we were doing.”

Unlike other cases where a coach is taking over for a poor program, the Titans are returning all but two players from last year’s D-III runner-up team and a plethora of experience. Senior Ben Boots will lead the charge. The guard was chosen as a preseason D-III All-American this year. He will be joined by fellow seniors Brett Wittchow and Alex Van Dyke and returning starters Adam Fravert and Jack Flynn, who are both juniors.

In the preseason D3hoops.com rankings, UWO was listed at second in the country due to their success last year and only losing two seniors.

Boots said he and the team have full confidence in their new head coach to lead them this season.

“Coach Lewis has handled the transition to head coach very well,” Boots said. “He’s done a great job of leading us and not putting any additional pressure on the players throughout the transition. We have great confidence in coach Lewis.”

Lewis will be accompanied by one of his former teammates at Cornell College. Casey Korn will be making his college coaching debut as the interim men’s basketball assistant coach here at UWO this season. Korn last coached at Rockwood Summit High School in Fenton, Missouri as the varsity head basketball coach for the last three seasons.

“Casey has been a successful high school coach the past nine years in both Iowa and Missouri,” Lewis said. “He brings a wealth of knowledge in not only X’s and O’s, but running a successful basketball program. We are excited that Casey has joined our staff and can bring new ideas to the table.”

Lewis was also excited to welcome two new coaches to the program.

“Ben is a very good young coach with a terrific mind for the game,” Lewis said. “We are a motion offense team, and Ben was an outstanding college and professional player in motion systems. He is able to help our guards understand the intricacies of what we do. Along with those two, we have Dylan Wurtz and Greg Jahnke. Both Dylan and Greg have been with our program for several years and have my complete trust. These four coaches are invaluable to our program.”

Juckem spoke glowingly of Lewis and what he can bring to the table.

“I could tell pretty early on in our time together that he had what it takes to be a head coach,” Juckem said. “By our second year, we started bringing in our guys and kind of laying the foundation for where the program is now. Matt is the full package. He has what it takes. He has the understanding of the game. For a guy his age, he’s a tremendous teacher and really effective communicator. He’s passionate about doing it for the right reasons.”

Juckem said Lewis was very involved as an assistant coach so now he’s ready to take the reins.

“Everything we did from recruiting, development of our players, our in-season program, our off-season program, you name it, Matt was involved in and actually took the lead in several areas,” Juckem said. “It’s always an adjustment when you move into the first seat, but there’s nothing that caught him by surprise, let’s put it that way.”

When asked if Lewis would take over as the best-dressed head coach in UWO history, Juckem joked that Lewis might have him there but he still has something over his former prodigy.

“I’d give him that award or recognition but I know this: he doesn’t have as nice of hair as the previous coach or maybe not as nice a jump shot,” Juckem said. “He’s certainly a dapper dresser with a strong shoe game.”