Brian Lynch
Brian Lynch
Brian Lynch’s first high school basketball head coaching job is not at his alma mater, but it’s at the next best place.

The Christian Brothers Academy graduate was announced as the new St. Rose High School coach on Aug. 17. That works out just fine for Lynch, who was raised in Belmar and lives five minutes from the school.

“I feel a very strong connection to St. Rose,” said Lynch, who became an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion while playing at Villanova in the late 1990s. “I grew up in this parish, my parents still go to church here, my brother Chris played here, I was confirmed and baptized in this church. It isn’t exactly the same as (once) playing here but there is a connection. It’s a nice situation I’ve gotten called into.”

He got the call after two decades of playing and coaching in Europe. Upon graduating from Villanova in 2000, Lynch played professionally in Poland, Israel, Portugal, Greece, Germany, Italy, France and Belgium for nine years. He spent the next 10 years coaching pro ball, both domestically in Belgium and internationally with FIBA Europe and Champions League.

Despite leaving the parish that honed his spirituality, Lynch maintained his faith while overseas.

“For me it’s always been an important thing,” he said. “Ever since I was a young kid going to church with my family, going to CBA and Villanova. It’s always been a part of my life. I guess you could say my relationship with God has always been very personal. I stop in at church on my own sometimes and have my own conversations and my own prayers. I think sometimes we all need a little conversation with God.”

The 43-year-old added that “I believe (my relationship with God and spirituality) have helped me get to where I am now, and it will continue to help me.”

Lynch is excited about where his journey has taken him.

Several years ago, he and his famous Belgian wife Kim Clijsters, a former world No. 1-ranked professional tennis player, began to re-evaluate their situation. Brian’s family members had reduced their trips to visits due to aging parents and siblings raising families of their own.

During a break in Lynch’s schedule, they came home for Thanksgiving in 2019 and “it was at that dinner afterward we thought this would be a nice change, let’s do it.”

They returned to Belmar in June 2020 and the coach started his business, Brian Lynch Basketball, to provide group and individual instruction. He was initially open to taking a coaching position in the pro, college or high school ranks but began thinking it over.

“I explored everything, [and] started talking with all my contacts I made through the basketball world,” Lynch said. “I started to dissect quality of life and what my priorities are.”

He realized those priorities did not include traveling around the country with pro or college teams while his daughter and two sons were at home, and decided, “I’m still at an age where dad is still pretty cool or very important to the kids. I made a decision to come home and be around here and the family.”

Lynch got involved with St. Rose last year when had an opportunity to provide a week of training for members of the girls’ team. The team liked him so much, that last season, he was brought on as a volunteer assistant to coach Mary Beth Chambers.

When Frank Carmody stepped down as the boys’ coach, he was asked for input from the search committee and gave Lynch high marks. Shortly thereafter, he got the job.

And while it’s quite a leap going from coaching professionals in Belgium to high schoolers in America, Lynch said, “Coaching is coaching, right?

“If you’re gonna coach a 24-year-old pro basketball player or a 15-year-old kid who wants to go to college someday – either way you’re trying to help that player understand the game better, be a better player and overall, just be a better human being. That was always the goal when I got into coaching, to just hit on those points. I’m not just going to be in this to get wins. I’m trying to help kids become better.”

Coming off a 3-7 season, St. Rose graduated seven seniors but returned six. Lynch saw them play a bit this summer and said he believes there is a nice enough mix to enable the Roses to be competitive this year. It will not be his first experience working with youth players, as he served as head man for Belgium’s U-18 national team.

While St. Rose has traditionally run conservative offensive and defensive systems, Lynch ran a modern, high-paced aggressive style at both ends of the court. He hopes to incorporate that at St. Rose in order to attract top-flight players to the program.  

“If kids see players getting better from their freshman to sophomore year, and see we are having fun, they will want to come here,” Lynch said. “The most important thing is we put a lot of emphasis on giving the opportunity for the kids to get better in the style that I played in Belgium. We’re gonna be a lot different than what you’ve seen here.

“We’ll probably do a lot more man-to-man (defense), picking up a lot earlier,” he continued. “We’re gonna be pressuring and try to create a lot of easy opportunities for our defense and we’re gonna try to create advantages offensively as early as possible with screening and attacking the basket.”

While some new coaches might tailor their system around what type of talent they inherit, Lynch feels he can develop his players into playing the style he prefers.

“We’ll evolve over time,” he said. “I’ll continue to evolve and try to tweak things here or there. Most coaches say, ‘I have to do this because this is what my personnel says.’ But a lot of times we forget kids have a big room to grow and to be challenged.

“So, my philosophy has always been to challenge them, and see if they can do it first,” he explained. “If they can’t do it, you can tweak stuff, but I’m not gonna completely change my whole system because one or two guys aren’t able to do it. Tweaks are good.”