Henderson State Head Coach Coak Matthews to Retire After 39 Years

After 39 years leading the men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, Coak Matthews has announced that he will be retiring from college coaching. Matthews will remain as a member of the staff at the Athletic Department at Henderson State in a part-time role, as the Director of Aquatics and Operations.

Shawn Jones, Director of Athletics at Henderson State, stated the following of Coach Matthews and his retirement:

“Coak Matthews has dedicated his professional life to the Henderson State swimming and diving programs, and has mentored thousands of student-athletes during his decorated career. His list of accolades and accomplishments is staggering, but as impressive as his results in the pool are, equally as important to his legacy is what an incredible mentor, role model and teacher he has been for his teams. His service to not just Henderson State, but to this community, is remarkable. I’m so thrilled that Coak is going to continue to assist the program and the new head coach in his part-time role as Director of Aquatics and Operations. I’m also happy for his family, which has played such a big part in his career, to get to enjoy some well-earned time together away from the rigors of competition. We look forward to celebrating coach Matthews and his hall of fame career in the fall during alumni weekend, when we are hopeful that many of the countless alumni he has coached can celebrate with us.”

Throughout his decorated career, Matthews has developed Henderson State swimming and diving into a powerhouse program, both in the NAIA and in the NCAA when it moved to Division II. He has coached over 200 All-Americans and has led Henderson State to 24 AIC and NSISC conference championships. He has also been named Coach of the Year 15 times, in addition to being named CSCAA National Diving Coach of the Year in 1990 and NAIA National Men’s Swimming and Diving Coach of the Year in 1994.

Over the last decade, both the men’s and women’s programs at Henderson State have placed within the top 35 of teams at Division II NCAAs, with both teams’ highest finish sitting at 10th, in 2009 and 2011 (women), and 2008 (men).

The Reddies placed 2nd at February’s NSIC Championships and 18th at the NCAA D2 Championships in March on the men’s side. The women finished their season at the NSIC championship meet, where they placed 4th.

Additionally, Matthews coached Bobby Cullen and Scott Hanshaw, the two most decorated swimmers in Henderson State history. Both were NAIA All-Americans and accumulated a total of eight national titles between the two of them.

When the NCAA era began, Matthews coached Henderson State’s first two national champions, with Emre Celik winning the 200 backstroke in 2005 and 2006 and Zach Interrante winning the 100 butterfly in 2010, both at the NCAA Division II Championships.

The Henderson State Reddies have also thrived academically, amassing almost 100 All-Academic Team awards under Matthews’s tutelage.

Matthews was inducted into the Arkansas Swimming Hall of Fame in 1995 and the Henderson State Athletic Hall of Honor in 2003.

A native of Houston, Texas, Matthews worked as the head coach for the Houston Swim Club prior to coming to Henderson State, from 1978-1979. He then worked as the head coach of the Quail Valley Athletic Club for three years before his arrival at Henderson State in 1982. The search for Matthews’s successor will begin immediately.

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Chris Ritter
5 months ago

Great Coak and a pleasure to work with him and Wally!

Sam Kendricks
5 months ago

A tip of the cap for sure! Congrats Coak!

Philip Kraus
5 months ago

Congrats Coak! I have enjoyed sharing the deck with you the past 3 years. Enjoy!

Rick Paine
5 months ago

Great coach and great person. I was blessed to coach him and coach with him in Houston.

Josh Davis
5 months ago

Congrats on an wonderful career! Thanks also for being a great example and encouragement to so many. Glad we still might see you when we race in town.