OSHKOSH, Wisc. (WBAY) UW-Oshkosh will conduct a nationwide search for a men’s basketball head coach at the end of the season, however, they do have a solid option in-house.
UW-Oshkosh men’s basketball Interim Head Coach, Matt Lewis, is making a pretty strong case for himself as the Titans’ next head coach.
Under Lewis' leadership, the Oshkosh men haven't skipped a beat. Coming off their national title game appearance last season, the Titans have put together a remarkable 23-2 record, and have secured the WIAC regular season title for the first time since 2002.
“I probably wouldn't have believed them or told them, yes it's possible,” Titans Interim Head Coach Matt Lewis said. “We knew we had a good team, but getting to this point and having the record that we have, you know, we're fortunate. Things have to go the right way over the course of the season.”
One of the biggest things to swing in the titans favor is the carryover of talent. Lewis inherited 15 players from the national title game roster, including 4 of 5 starters.
“I mean, our old guys are as committed as they have ever been,” Lewis said. “Coming off the season that we had last year, it might have been easier to just say 'hey, we might be good next year, let's just see if it works out.' instead of doing that, they reinvested, and the come every day, and they work their tails off, and it trickles down to the young guys."
Those “old guys” on the team have an established relationship with the 31-year old Lewis which made the transition of power a smooth one. The former Titans assistant coach had a hand in recruiting a majority of the players on the roster.
“He (Matt Lewis) was at most of my high school games my senior year,” Titans guard Brett Wittchow said. “I'm just from down the road in Rosendale, so you know, it wasn't that far of a drive, but I don't remember any home games where there wasn't at least one coach, and a lot of times, it was Lewis that was there.”
“You know he was really involved with guys like Brett (Wittchow) too, Adam Fravert, really top to bottom,” Titans guard Ben Boots said. “He was, you know he had an established relationship with us all the way back to high school.”
So how do the players that know him best describe his coaching style?
“He’s an energy giver,” Boots said. “Every day he brings a ton of passion, and he's really, you know he's a youthful guy as you can see, and he's got a lot of energy and that really rubs off on all of us.”
“Very energetic. On the sidelines, he gets into the games a ton,” Wittchow said. “I would say you know, he's very trusting as a coach, you know, you make a mistake he's not going to instantly pull you, pull you out and put you on the bench, which I love about him.”
“A lot of who I am as coach was molded by Pat (Juckem), so our practices are intense, and high energy, and competitive because that's the way he was,” Lewis said. “I found out that's the way I wanted to be as a head coach.”
As much as they are alike, Coach Lewis is not a carbon copy of Pat Juckem. He's letting this experience mold him into his own type head coach.
“Being a head coach at an early age, you just got to figure things out,” Lewis said. “You have learn not only from the people above you, the coaches that you've coached with, your administration, but you have to take a lot away from the old players that you've got on your team too, and we've got some special older guys, so I’ve learned a lot from them, and hopefully they've been able to learn something from me as well.”
The head coach job hasn’t been offered to Lewis yet, but his ideal situation would be to stick with the Titans.
“I’ve got mom, dad, brother, sister-in-law, I’ve got nieces,” Lewis said. “I’ve got a fiancé, her and I bought a house in Appleton. Her family has moved up here from Florida. We're getting married this summer, so this is home, and we want to stay home.”