Lewis sheds interim tag


Lydia Sanchez

Head coach Matt Lewis is locked-in against Wheaton College in the 2019 NCAA semifinal game.

The UW Oshkosh athletic department officially named Matt Lewis the men’s basketball program head coach.

After serving as the team’s top assistant coach for six seasons, Lewis was offered the interim head coaching job last season after former head coach Pat Juckem filled the head coaching vacancy at Washington University-St. Louis.

Under Lewis, the team played its way to a national championship last season where they won the program’s first championship in its 121-year history. The team set school records with 29 wins, 2,715 points, 961 made field goals, 2,018 field goal attempts, 1,308 rebounds, 325 made 3-pointers, 866 3-point attempts, 148 blocks and a 21-game winning streak.

Lewis, along with candidate Matthew Raidbard, were interviewed and considered for the job.

Raidbard served as an assistant for Division I programs at Florida Gulf Coast University, Dartmouth College and Chicago State but Lewis’ roots in the program and national championship season secured him the job.

Lewis gave his players all the credit for the team’s success last season and his ability to win the job.

“It’s the guys,” Lewis said. “We’re fortunate to have incredible guys — high character kids that love basketball and that have put a lot of work into it. It’s our job to continue to recruit more of [those type of guys].”

Athletic director Darryl Sims said there were many factors that led to the committee choosing Lewis as the head coach of the program.

“We looked at obviously what he did as an assistant, how he’s transitioned over as the interim coach, how he’s managed the basketball team and his relationship with the student athletes,” Sims said. “How he’s worked in the department with the other coaches and administrators and certainly the production — the success that we had factored into it as well.”

Lewis said the team didn’t dwell on the interim tag he had during last season.

“I thought I had a good shot,” Lewis said. “I had confidence in what we were doing and who we had coming back and also, we needed to play well. We didn’t focus on it. We were all about just trying to be as good as we could be.”

Senior guard Ben Boots said he’s looking forward to watching the program grow under Lewis in the coming years.

“I’m really excited for the future of UW Oshkosh basketball,” Boots said. “With Coach Lewis leading the way there is no ceiling to the success that future teams will be able to achieve. Coach Lewis has a phenomenal understanding of the game and how to build and develop strong relationships with his players on and off the court.”

Now that he has secured the head coaching job, Lewis said there will not be any added pressure for him and the team to perform next year.

“There’s always pressure,” Lewis said. “You put expectations on yourself but we’re not going to get caught up in, ‘now he’s full-time and not interim.’ We’re just excited about who we have on the roster and us moving forward. We think Titan basketball is in a good place right now.”

Lewis has had roles in the basketball programs of Rhodes College (Tenn.), Cornell College (Iowa) and NCAA Division I Tulane University (La.).

Sims said he is very confident in Lewis’ abilities and feels like the program is in good hands.

“The future looks very bright right now,” Sims said. “Matt has certainly demonstrated he can coach at this level at a very high level. He’s done a very good job with recruits. We certainly have a lot more kids interested in the program than before. I like the direction that he’s taken the program.”

Boots said Lewis’ personality makes him a great coach and this quality allows him to create lasting relationships with his players.

“Coach Lewis is an extremely positive and enthusiastic person on and off the floor,” Boots said. “He is truly a great guy, someone that everyone should admire and to me is not only my former coach, but also a great friend. He is more than capable to lead this program for many years to come.”