BREAKING NEWS: Wilkinson resigns as varsity boys’ coach at N-C

Published Wednesday, February 24th, 2021

Matt Wilkinson, a former point guard at Newton-Conover High who has coached the Red Devils’ varsity boys for the past six seasons, is retiring from coaching. He previously coached the Bunker Hill boys for 11 seasons, and all 17 of his teams won 173 games and made the state playoffs 11 times. He said Wednesday he will continue in his role as Career Development Coordinator at Newton-Conover./MICHELLE THOMPSON PHOTO (purchase her photos by emailing her at

He also coached Bunker Hill varsity boys for 11 seasons


A year-by-year look at boys’ varsity basketball teams coached by Matt Wilkinson, who said Wednesday he won’t return next season to coach the Newton-Conover High boys.
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Year                    School           Record
2020-21                N-C                       6-8
2019-20                N-C                      15-11*
2018-19                 N-C                      16-12*
2017-18                  N-C                     6-20
2016-17                   N-C                     4-21
2015-16                   N-C                      7-17
2014-15                   B. Hill                11-14*
2013-14                   B. Hill                15-12*
2012-13                   B. Hill                 7-18*
2011-12                    B. Hill                 7-19*
2010-11                    B. Hill                 14-13*
2009-10                   B. Hill                 14-13*
2008-09                  B. Hill                  12-14*
2007-08                   B. Hill                 10-14*
2006-07                    B. Hill                 11-14*
2005-06                    B. Hill                10-15
2004-05                    B. Hill                 8-16
TOTALS                                      173-241
Notes: Wilkinson’s 2009-10 Bunker Hill team had his best league finish, tie for third in the Catawba Valley Athletic 2A… His 2018-19 Newton-Conover team also tied for third, in the South Fork 2A.
SOURCE: files and research.


NEWTON – More than 20 years ago, Matt Wilkinson set the criteria for when he would give up coaching. He said Wednesday that time has come.

Wilkinson — head boys’ varsity basketball coach at Newton-Conover High the last six seasons after holding the same position at Bunker Hill for the 15 seasons before that – has resigned.


He confirmed he told his players he would not be back after their 70-64 loss at East Lincoln on Friday night.

Wilkinson will continue as Career Development Coordinator at Newton-Conover (his alma mater), and has about nine years left before he can retire as a 30-year teacher.

Said Wilkinson: “I just made a promise to myself when I got into coaching that if I felt like I didn’t have the (same) passion to get in there (the gym) and bring the (consistent) enthusiasm to our kids,” it would be time to go.

“Whether that be 10 years or 35 years (in coaching).”

He first coached in 1988-89 as a volunteer assistant for Don Mitchell with the Newton-Conover varsity boys.

Wilkinson graduated from Newton-Conover, where he was a point guard for head coach Jerry Willard and also ran cross country, in 1994. The Red Devils went 17-9 and 16-10 with Wilkinson in the lineup.

After earning a degree in communications from Appalachian State, Wilkinson didn’t go into teaching at first (he now also has a master’s degree in physical education from West Virginia University).

He became Bunker Hill boys’ varsity coach in 2004-05 when Jim Woodruff retired after 20 seasons.

Wilkinson guided 11 Bears teams to a record of 119-152 and ended his run there with nine straight playoff bids.

When Jonathan Tharpe resigned as Red Devils boys’ varsity coach after the 2014-15 season, Wilkinson landed the job at his alma mater (six teams at 54-89 with two playoff bids).

Wilkinson leaves with a record of 173-241 over 17 years

Newton-Conover went 6-8 this season, shortened by COVID-19 and didn’t reach the postseason.

The limited workouts times in the offseason with COVID in the mix – Wilkinson said basketball is now a year-round thing for a coach – helped him open his eyes a bit, he said.

Once he saw it allowed him more time with his family – he and his wife still have three school-aged children in the home – Wilkinson said it made him think.

“It kinda opened my eyes,” he said. “I felt like I couldn’t (necessarily) give what I have been giving for the last 21 years… and it allows me to focus on being a dad.”

In somewhat of a twist, enjoying coaching this year’s Red Devils makes it a bit easier to step away.

Newton-Conover started 3-1 and was under .500 (3-4) when it won three key South Fork 2A games in a row (over Lincolnton, Bandys and West Lincoln) before losing the final four games to finish in sixth place.

“I started thinking about it (retiring) in the previous offseason,” Wilkinson said. “I felt a little different in the gym… I guess it reaffirmed my thoughts.

“I thoroughly enjoyed coaching this team but even with that, I knew it was time.”

Wilkinson leaves secure the program is in good shape, reflecting on his own goals when he left Bunker Hill to go home.

“I felt like it was a time for a change,” he said of that move. “I felt like I wanted a different challenge… the challenge of going back to the alma mater…

“When I got there, in terms of returnees, they didn’t have many. I was trying to come in and build a program… accountability, get better in the offseason.”

Wilkinson said his work with the feeder schools now has players coming to the high school who have worked within the program since they were in as early as the second grade.

“The future for Newton-Conover basketball is bright,” Wilkinson said. “There’s lots of experience in our program.”

The open position at Newton-Conover will be posted soon, an official in human resources for the Newton-Conover City Schools said Wednesday afternoon.


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