NEWTON — Following six seasons as the head coach of the varsity boys basketball team at Newton-Conover, Matt Wilkinson is stepping down. The news was confirmed by the Red Devils’ athletic director, John Echerd, in an email to the Hickory Daily Record on Thursday.
A point guard at Newton-Conover in the early 1990s, Wilkinson replaced Jonathan Tharpe as the head coach at his alma mater in 2015 after 11 seasons as the head coach at Bunker Hill. He led the Red Devils to back-to-back winning seasons in 2018-19 (16-12) and 2019-20 (15-11), guiding them to the state playoffs both years.
Wilkinson also took Bunker Hill to the state playoffs in his final nine seasons at the helm, and has a career record of 173-241 as a head coach. He was 54-89 in six seasons as Newton-Conover’s head coach, including a 6-8 mark during the 2020-21 campaign.
Wilkinson graduated from Appalachian State University, where he majored in communications. He later attained a master’s degree in physical education from West Virginia University, and is currently Career Development Coordinator at Newton-Conover, a position he will continue to fill.
Newton-Conover’s varsity boys basketball team was 27-29 in South Fork 2A Conference play over the past four seasons. The Red Devils tied for third in the conference with a mark of 8-6 in 2018-19 before finishing fourth in 2019-20 with a record of 9-5.
Wilkinson’s successor will take the reins just as Newton-Conover is set to join a new conference next winter. According to recent dconference realignment information released by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association, the Red Devils will compete in a 2A conference also including Bandys, Bunker Hill, Maiden, East Burke, Lincolnton, West Caldwell and West Lincoln.
All of the aforementioned schools except Bunker Hill, East Burke and West Caldwell were also members of the South Fork 2A over the past four seasons. The South Fork 2A was established during the previous conference realignment in 2017, with Newton-Conover participating in the Southern District 7 2A Conference the prior four years.