Basketball Coach, 1953-64
Inducted October 8, 1977
The late Edwin “Eddie” Matthews was one of the most beloved and respected men ever to coach at Southwest Missouri State. He was a master cage strategist and tactician but also a gentleman on and off the court. He has said that basketball was the easiest game to play and the hardest to master. A native of Polk County and a 1947 graduate of SMS, Matthews was selected to take the head coaching reins as SMS in the summer of 1953. He came in following the departure of Bob Vanatta and an unprecedented two straight MAIA national titles for SMS. Matthews regrouped the Bears and took them right back to the MIAA championship and into yet another NAIA tourney in Kansas City. The Bruins tripped Gustavus Adolphus, East Tennessee, and East Texas State to roll into the semifinals before dropping a three-point decision to Western Illinois. The Bears rebounded the next night to top Arkansas Tech for third place. Matthews returned to the MIAA throne room in 1958 with a team which won its first 19 games and then an NCAA regional title before losing to South Dakota in the national quarterfinals. The following year, the Bruins claimed another conference crown, hosted and won the regional championship, and took the nation’s second-ranked small college team to the national tourney at Evansville. The Bears tripped Hope College and pounded Los Angeles State before losing the national championship to the host Evansville Aces. The Bruins had turned in back-to-back records of 22-2 and 23-3 under Matthews. The foundation for yet another SMS dynasty was laid by Matthews with the team he recruited in the spring of 1963. He stayed with them as freshmen the following season but passed away the next spring. His charges went on to claim MIAA titles as juniors and seniors and were again national runnerup in 1967. In 11 SMS seasons, Eddie Matthews’ teams finished below third place in the MIAA just once. His career record stands at 162 victories and 90 losses; and includes a home court winning streak record of 41 straight games in McDonald Arena between 1957 and 1960; a record which hasn’t been approached since that time.