The Matson Classic Returns

After a one-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the Matson Classic, honoring the late Coach Tony Matson, returns to Orange Lutheran on January 22.


“Legacy. What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.” 

-Lin Manuel Miranda, Hamilton


The Matson Classic is a well-known event in Orange County that showcases some of the best local basketball talent. The winter event, hosted by Orange Lutheran, draws spectators from all over Southern California, with high-level teams facing off to display their skills. However, many are not aware of the namesake of this event - Tony Matson.


Tony Matson was a coach for the Orange Lutheran Girls Basketball program. Before his sudden passing in 2009, he coached the team for ten years, and, arguably, his coaching is what has skyrocketed the program to what it has become today. Players under Matson recall his competitive spirit, overflowing faith, and love for Christ. 


MatsonCoach Matson, far right, with the 2009 Varsity team (Photo from 2009 Orange Lutheran Yearbook)


Lindsay Charity '05, who played for Matson at Orange Lutheran for four years and is now the Orange Lutheran Girls Basketball Head Coach, remembers Matson as an incredible coach and an endless support system off the court.


Charity recalls that he was “really intense and passionate about basketball,” so a lot of his coaching involved himself getting on the court and working with the players to teach them. Off the court, however, she is thankful for Matson’s accountability. His coaching created an open environment, and Charity explains that she often went to him for “advice, support, and mentorship.” Being at a Lutheran high school, Matson’s faith was an integral part of his coaching, and she remembers participating in team devotions and prayers. She admired him, looking up to him for simply how much he cared about his players. His loving attitude spread through the program and provided an excellent example for his players as he never spoke ill of anyone and always gave glory to God.


For Charity specifically, she recalls Matson being a parent figure in her life, as she had to overcome her mother’s death early on in her high school career. Charity and her dad felt supported through Matson’s love, and he ensured that Charity stayed on the right track in high school despite the difficulties she was facing. Looking back on her relationship and experiences with him, she is grateful for his presence in her life and believes that he gave her a better perspective of what being a head coach truly means. She now realizes “all the sacrifices he made to be [their] coach, including time away from family, hours spent practice planning and scouting opponents, taking our team on travel trips, and just everything that goes into it.”


Charity is now in the head coach position where Matson stood years ago. She is striving to continue to build the successful program that he put so much work into and hopes that he is proud to see what the program has now become. She defines the legacy he left as always working to be at the next level while also showing the love of Christ in one’s actions. His coaching put OLu Girls Basketball on the map, and she aims to uphold that position. Charity says, “For me, his legacy will always be his leadership and mentorship when I was in high school and beyond. He helped show me all the life lessons that being on a team sport like basketball can teach and that coaching is a ministry.”


Former head coach Tom Howard, who worked as an assistant coach to Matson, explains that he worked to grow the program to the point where they could compete alongside the best teams in OC. Howard describes Matson as “an extremely passionate and competitive person, who had a huge heart for his players,” and that he looked up to him for that passion. Matson showed the Orange Lutheran Girls Basketball program how to compete at high levels and to demonstrate the sacrificial love of Christ for each other.


Matson's work at OLu led the program to 197 wins and five league titles, a true miracle considering the competition within the Trinity League and Southern California as a whole. Matson led not only through his competitive spirit but also his Christ-centered heart. Tragically, Matson’s incredible life and coaching career were cut short by a sudden heart attack in 2009. He left behind a wife, three daughters, and a still-growing basketball program.


Orange County’s basketball community was heartbroken to lose such an influential figure in the community. To honor Matson and support his devastated family, Mater Dei coach Kevin Kiernan and Brea Olinda coach Jeff Sink united in 2010 to create the annual Matson Classic. The tournament worked to celebrate the life and passion of Tony Matson - competitive basketball - and the funds raised from the event went to support the Matson family. The classic has continued every year since 2010, except in 2021 due to COVID-19, and returns this January.


The 2022 Matson Classic will again showcase Orange County’s best talent, including Orange Lutheran, Brea, Aliso Niguel, El Dorado, Esperanza, and Cerritos. With the blessing of the Matson family, the money raised from the event will now go to a basketball player to assist with their tuition or program fees through the creation of the Tony Matson Classic Scholarship. The 12th Annual Matson Classic will be held at Orange Lutheran’s Ellwein Center on January 22, 2022, with games from 2:00 to 6:30 PM.


Tony Matson planted seeds in the Orange Lutheran Girls Basketball Program that have sprouted and produced a successful and competitive program that works to honor his legacy. Though he could not see the impact his work has made, his passion and love still exist in the program, ever inspiring and fueling the teams to compete for God’s glory. 

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