Hanging up the white shoes

More news about: Stockton
Stockton's long-time colorful and succesful head coach Gerry Matthews is leaving the Ospreys' sideline after 30 winning seasons and 603 victories.
Stockton athletics file photo 

After 30 seasons, 603 victories and two trips to the national semifinals, Gerry Matthews has decided to hang up his trademark white coaching shoes and retire from his position as Stockton's men's basketball coach. He'll be replaced on an interim basis by long-time associate head coach Scott Bittner.

Matthews told NJ.com that he felt the time was right to step away given his approaching 75th birthday and multiple hip and knee surgeries this year.

"(Former New York City police commissioner William Bratton) said, 'There's never a good time to stop doing what you love doing, but there's a right time.' And I kind of feel like this is the right time." 

Matthews led the Ospreys from 1985-1986 through 2015-2016, and never had a losing season in that 30-year span. He finishes with a record of 603-243 (.713 winning percentage) which puts him in the Top 20 all-time for Division III men's basketball coaching victories and winning percentage.

Matthews won nine New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) championships in four different decades under three different school names (Stockton State, Richard Stockton and Stockton). He was named the NJAC coach of the year nine times and took the Ospreys to the NCAA tournament 16 times, with the deepest run coming in 2009 when the Ospreys finished national runners-up to Washington U

Matthews also led the Ospreys (then as Stockton State) to the 1987 national semifinals where they lost to eventual champion North Park. In 2012 Matthews passed longtime Princeton head coach Pete Carril for the most wins among New Jersey men's college basketball coaches, as the Ospreys beat Farmingdale State to give Matthews win No. 515.

His final victory came in the 2016 NJAC tournament final when the Ospreys defeated TCNJ 60-53. Stockton has won the last three NJAC titles. The Ospreys lost to Keene State 72-71 in overtime in the first round of the 2016 NCAA tournament.

Matthews' spot will be filled by long-time assistant and associate head coach Scott Bittner. Bittner handled many of the physical parts of coaching last season when Matthews was battling leg injuries. Like Matthews, Bittner started his coaching career in the New Jersey High School ranks, as an assistant at Bishop Eustace and his alma mater St. Augustine Preparatory School.

Matthews is the latest Division III coaching veteran to retire this offseason. He follows Wittenberg coach Bill Brown (543 wins in 29 seasons), Roanoke coach Page Moir (428 wins in 27 season) and East Texas Baptist coach Bert West (303 wins in 22 season).