Megan Smith Lyon named Carolina’s new softball coach

Smith Lyon, who played for the Tar Heels from 1996-99, is returning to Chapel Hill from Marshall following the winningest year of her career.

Megan Smith Lyon.
(Illustration by GoHeels.com)

Megan Smith Lyon, a 17-year head coaching veteran and Carolina alumna, has been hired as the University of North Carolina’s new softball coach. Smith Lyon comes to Chapel Hill after five years at Marshall.

“Megan is an outstanding leader who has proven she knows how to build teams and teamwork on and off the field,” said Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham. “She recruits talent, strengthens skills, develops winners and knows first-hand what it takes to succeed as a student and an athlete at Carolina. We are happy to welcome her back to Chapel Hill, and we look forward to the future of Carolina Softball.”

Smith Lyon, who played for the Tar Heels from 1996-99, is returning to Chapel Hill following the winningest year of her career. The 2023 season was filled with historic achievements for Marshall, including a program-record 45 wins, a 23-game winning streak and a record five first-team all-conference selections. Smith Lyon successfully guided Marshall into its first season in the Sun Belt Conference, ranking at the top of the league in batting average (.333), earned run average (1.62), on-base percentage (.421), slugging percentage, (.512) and scoring (6.42 runs per game).

“I’m a Tar Heel born and bred. It was always my dream to play at North Carolina, and to now be the head coach feels like I’m coming home,” Smith Lyon said. “I deeply appreciate the trust and confidence that Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz, Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham, Senior Associate AD Vince Ille and the Board of Trustees are showing by hiring me to lead this group of talented young women and welcoming me to the Tar Heel coaching family.

“I also want to thank my coach and mentor, Donna J. Papa. I’m grateful for all that she has done for the Carolina Softball program at the University during her amazing career, and I am humbled to have the opportunity to build on the foundation she has created.

“Thank you also to the Marshall administration and the city of Huntington, West Virginia, for being so supportive of our program over the past five years. The student-athletes in Marshall’s softball program have done amazing things – and they will continue to do amazing things.”

Smith Lyon became the fastest coach to reach 150 wins in Marshall’s history, needing just 215 games to get there, reaching the milestone vs. Coastal Carolina on April 15, 2023. She posted a 160-70 record, a .696 winning percentage, in five seasons with the Thundering Herd.

Prior to her time in Huntington, Smith Lyon spent nine seasons as the head coach at Kansas. She led the Jayhawks to six consecutive 30-win seasons and back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Tournament in 2014 and 2015 during her nine seasons at the helm.

Additionally, Smith Lyon started the softball program at Western Carolina and posted a 41-20 record in WCU’s inaugural season, earning 2006 Southern Conference Coach of the Year honors.

She’s also had assistant coaching stops at LSU, North Carolina (2004 season) and Charlotte.

Smith Lyon played for the Tar Heels from 1996-99 and served as a team captain in her senior year. She still ranks sixth in career assists and was named the team’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player in 1999.

A Walkertown, North Carolina, native, Smith is married to Corey Lyon. She has one son with the late Paul Buske, Cooper. She also has three stepdaughters, Ciarra, Carson and Cheyanne North, a son-in-law, Stephen North, and one grandson, Emmett North.

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