Myrtle Beach celebrates its champions
Rivers Lynch had long ago secured a celebrated legacy.
Yet to those who knew him well, it isn’t the 11 tennis state titles he brought to Myrtle Beach High School that cemented his impact well beyond his passing Sunday morning.
“You say this about people that pass away and you’re like ‘Oh, he’s a great guy,’ but he was literally the most genuine, nicest guy you’ll ever meet,” said Will Bull, a tennis pro at Dunes Golf & Beach Club. “And he never met a stranger.”
Lynch, 72, died of natural causes at his home Sunday, said Myrtle Beach High School Athletic Director John Cahill, who is also the longtime coach’s son-in-law.
“We’re a close-knit family,” said Cahill, whose wife, Te-Anne, is one of Lynch’s four daughters. “We’re talking and praying together. We’re doing as well as can be expected.”
Lynch led the Myrtle Beach girls to eight state titles, six from 1990-96 and two from 1997-99, and helped the boys program win three championships from 2006-09. He was still coaching into his final days, as he was preparing his Seahawks boys squad for its playoff opener Tuesday.
“He’d be the first one to tell you he never thought of himself as a tennis pro or anything. He wasn’t a guy that was going to go to a club and teach tennis or anything like that, but he definitely knew the game,” Bull said. “He just had such a good demeanor about him that he knew how to talk to kids, settle them down, make them feel comfortable.
“A lot of coaching is not always about knowing the X’s and O’s and the grips and the techniques, but it’s about motivating the kids.”
Lynch and his wife of 50 years, Teresa, taught at MBHS for approximately 30 years after spending more than a decade at North Myrtle Beach High. Serving as a teacher of biology, driver’s education and in the Graduation Enhancement Program (GEP), Lynch was well-known by most students who passed through the Myrtle Beach campus over the years.
“He cared about everybody. He cared about their needs. He cared about what was going on in their lives,” said Cahill, whose three sons, John Edward, Rivers and Nolan, are on the boys tennis team. “He wanted to make a difference with helping children succeed and become successful in their lives.”
Lynch was fanatic when it came to Seahawks athletics. He attended every event he could fit into his schedule, Cahill said. Despite being known for tennis, Lynch made an impact on many other Seahawks athletes.
“He always had a smile on his face,” said Akeem Hemingway, a MBHS alumnus and former basketball standout. “He cared about everyone. He checked in on how your day was going. He always made sure you were OK. He always stopped and spoke. He wanted to go out of his way and make sure everybody was like his self — always smiling.”
Lynch impacted many students’ lives even after they left high school. Jeremy Howard, the Seahawks girls head JV coach and varsity assistant, said Lynch played a role in his transition into the coaching realm. He likened Lynch’s impact to that of Myrtle Beach legendary basketball coach Buddy Rogers, another man who passed away while still coaching.
“He pretty much was an advisor for me, more of like a mentor. He was like Buddy Rogers,” Howard said. “I looked up to those two guys because that’s all I knew coming up through the Myrtle Beach ranks. He’s a cheerful guy. He always gave me encouraging words.”
Well wishes were posted en masse on Lynch’s Facebook page Sunday, from the athletes who played for him to others in the community whom he impacted somehow along the way. Cahill said funeral arrangements had not yet been set up, nor were plans as to who would coach the boys tennis team heading into the week.
Though services have yet to be arranged, Bull believes it will be a celebration of a man who to many was larger than life.
“He might have the biggest funeral in the history of Myrtle Beach,” Bull said. “I mean, who knows? It wouldn’t surprise me. The amount of people that are going to show up for that guy is crazy. It’s a big loss.”
Said Howard: “He had a huge impact on the Myrtle Beach community. If we had a hall of fame for anybody coming out of Myrtle Beach he’ll be one of them. He’ll be inducted into it.”
Lynch is survived by his wife, Teresa; his four daughters, Te-Anne, Tara, Tai and Taylor, and their spouses; and 12 grandchildren.