Bill Gibbons is in his 29th season at the helm of the Holy Cross women’s basketball program in 2013-2014, and his 33rd season as part of the Holy Cross athletic department. He is the winningest coach in the history of the program, leading the Crusaders to an overall mark of 533-315 in his first 28 years. On Dec. 3, 2011, Gibbons earned his 500th victory as Holy Cross’ head coach, becoming the 24th active Division I coach to reach 500 wins.
Gibbons was the recipient of the prestigious Paul N. Johnson Award, given to a member of the Worcester community who has greatly contributed to Worcester area basketball. With his service, the name Gibbons has become a fixture in the realm of women’s basketball. He has led the Crusaders to 11 Patriot League Championships in his career as head coach. He has also made 13 postseason appearances (11 NCAA Tournaments, one WNIT and one WBI) in his 28 years. With sixteen 20-win seasons under his belt, Gibbons has cemented himself and the women’s basketball program as one of the best in the East.
The sixth coach of the women’s program at Holy Cross, Gibbons has enjoyed the longest tenure in the position. He has led the Holy Cross women’s basketball program to more victories than any other coach, and is the winningest coach in Holy Cross basketball history. With his 358th victory, he surpassed George Blaney (357 wins as head coach of the Holy Cross men’s basketball program), who had hired him to be his assistant coach in 1981. Now with more than 500 wins under his belt, Gibbons is the second-winningest coach in Holy Cross Athletics history, behind legendary baseball coach Jack Barry, who totaled 616 wins from 1921-1960.
In 2007, Gibbons was named the assistant women’s basketball coach for Team USA, competing in the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. During the five-day basketball tournament made up of eight international basketball teams, Gibbons’ team took home the gold medal, winning the championship game on July 24 over Brazil in front of 15,000 fans.
In 2006, Gibbons was named as a Russell Athletic / WBCA Victory Club Award recipient. The Russell Athletic / WBCA Victory Club Award is presented to each WBCA member head coach who achieves career wins of 200, 300, 400 and 500. Gibbons made his way onto the prestigious list with a 70-53 win over Army on January 12, 2005. Entering the 2013-2014 season, Gibbons ranks in the top-25 on the list of winningest active Division I coaches.
In 2003, he was inducted into the New England College Basketball Hall of Fame at the University of Rhode Island. The six-time Patriot League Coach of the Year has maintained the winning tradition which he inherited 27 years ago. The undaunted leader has produced teams that have tangled competitively with some of the nation’s best. In recent years, Gibbons’ squads have been tested by Connecticut, Louisiana Tech, Rutgers, Duke, DePaul, Arizona, Auburn, Florida, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Penn State, Stanford, Vanderbilt, Tulane, Virginia and Wisconsin. He has included top 25 teams in the Crusaders’ competitive schedule each year and has subsequently built the program’s reputation nationally. Attracting outstanding student-athletes throughout the country, Gibbons and his staff have vastly improved the college’s recruiting efforts during his tenure.
As the women’s collegiate game has changed throughout the country in recent years, so has women’s hoops on Mount St. James. Now one of the premiere teams on campus, the Crusader women’s basketball team has drawn record crowds at the Hart Center, including the 4,000 fans who attended the contest against the Connecticut Huskies in January 2000, the first sellout at the Hart Center for women’s basketball.
SUCCESS IN THE CLASSROOM
While some aspects of the game have changed, others have remained the same at Holy Cross. An integral part of Gibbons’ collegiate coaching philosophy is the success of each student-athlete in the classroom. Impressively, each student-athlete who has played for four seasons under Gibbons’ direction has earned her degree. For the last five years, Holy Cross was one of just three schools in the 64-team NCAA Tournament field with a graduation rate of 100 percent. The Crusader program has produced four Academic All-Americans and more than 10 Academic All-District picks.
During Gibbons’ tenure, three players have earned Patriot League Female Scholar Athlete of the Year honors (Kathy Courtney, Ann Lambiotte and Amy O’Brien), and five players have earned Patriot League women’s basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors (Lisa Andrews, Courtney, Brittany Keil, Lambiotte and O’Brien, twice). In addition, Gibbons has coached 10 CoSIDA Academic All-District players, three of whom were also named Academic All-Americans. Recently, Whitney Fremeau (2011), Amy Lepley (2012) and Alex Smith (2013) have been named to the Patriot League All-Academic team.
SIXTEEN TWENTY-WIN SEASONS
Gibbons has led the Crusaders to more victories than any other coach in Holy Cross history during his 26-year tenure. He has won 20 or more games in 10 of the last 17 seasons and in 16 seasons overall. For his career, Gibbons has averaged 19.1 wins per year.
In his rookie campaign, Gibbons led his squad to an impressive 21-7 overall record and a third place finish in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. The 1986-1987 Crusaders finished with a 19-10 overall mark and placed second in the MAAC. In 1987-1988, Holy Cross upped its ledger to 21-8 and took second place conference honors.
Gibbons’ level of success reached new heights with a MAAC Tournament title and an NCAA Tournament appearance in 1988-1989. In addition, the Crusaders finished the season 21-10 overall and 10-2 in the MAAC.
SUCCESS IN THE PATRIOT LEAGUE
The 1990-1991 campaign was a monumental season for Gibbons. Voted Patriot League Coach of the Year by his peers, he led the Crusaders to a 12-0 conference record and to the regular season and postseason league championships. Under his care and guidance, Holy Cross finished 25-6, setting a school record for victories. In addition, the squad earned an at-large invitation to the NCAA Tournament, upsetting Maryland, 81-74, at the Hart Center for the program’s first-ever NCAA Tournament victory.
Gibbons directed the 1992-1993 Crusaders to a 22-7 overall mark and a Patriot League regular season title. His 1994-1995 and 1995-1996 squads also captured Patriot League championships, giving Holy Cross three titles in a span of four years. Gibbons earned his 200th career win on March 5, 1995, when the Crusaders upended Bucknell, 62-39 in the semifinals of the Patriot League Tournament.
In 1996-1997, Gibbons guided his squad to a 23-4 mark, matching the best winning percentage in school history. With a 12-0 mark in Patriot League play, Holy Cross became just the second team in league history to compile a perfect regular season record. For his efforts, Gibbons was honored as Patriot League Coach of the Year for the second time.
The 2002-2003 team compiled a 13-1 mark in Patriot League play (24-8 overall), earning its seventh-consecutive Patriot League regular season title. Gibbons was again named as the Patriot League Coach of the Year.
After a disappointing 13-15 mark in 2003-2004, the first sub-.500 season under Gibbons’ direction, the Crusaders came back to win 20 games in 2004-2005, while capturing both the Patriot League regular season (12-2) and tournament titles, and earning the program’s 11th trip to the NCAA Tournament.
The 2005-2006 team (16-14 overall) compiled a 10-4 record in Patriot League play and won six of its last seven games going into the Patriot League championship game, but fell to Army, 69-68 in the title contest, denying the program it’s 10th postseason appearance in 12 years.
The 2006-2007 team (15-18 overall) finished third in the Patriot League but won the Patriot League Tournament title after defeating No. 4 seed American 56-48 in the final. The Crusaders lost to Duke in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
During the 2007-2008 season (19-13 overall) the Crusaders finished the season ranked second in the league with a 10-4 record and runner-up in the tournament, after hosting Bucknell in the Championship game.
More recently, Gibbons teams have posted winning records in three of the last six seasons, while making three more appearances in the Patriot League championship game (2008, 2012 and 2013). The 2012 team also advanced to the Women’s Basketball Invitational, defeating New Hampshire 63-59 in the first round for only the second postseason win in the program’s history.
In Patriot League games, Gibbons owns a 278-98 (.739) record, including 11 regular season titles and 11 tournament crowns. His teams have competed in postseason play in 13 of the last 25 years, including four straight NCAA Tournament appearances from 1998 to 2001. Holy Cross has also advanced to the Patriot League championship game 17 times in the last 23 seasons.
An active supporter of community involvement, Gibbons and the Crusader program take great pride in being able to do something positive for the Worcester community. The team has adopted three organizations as their unofficial charity partners. The Crusaders visit the Mercy Centre three to four times a year and spend time with mentally and physically challenged children and teach them basketball skills. Holy Cross also works with the Why Me/Sherry’s House organization, which helps children and families of kids with cancer. The squad is involved with Team IMPACT as well, which is a non-profit group that matches children facing life-threatening illnesses with collegiate sports programs.
The Crusaders also volunteer at the Mustard Seed, where they help contribute food to homeless shelters throughout the Worcester area. Another popular community activity is the Reading Day program, where the team visits area schools to read and convey the importance of academics to elementary students. Lastly, the Crusaders raise money and take part in UMass Medical’s annual “Walk to Cure Cancer.”
In 2005, Gibbons and his Crusaders were chosen from all Division I, II & III teams in New England and awarded the Final Four Award for Community Service. In 2006, Gibbons was presented with the Emerald Club of Worcester Shillelagh Award. He also received the 2006 Greendale Flag Football League Service Award for his 10 years of outstanding service to the league.
In addition, Gibbons has served as a member of the CNN/USA Today Coaches Poll, NCAA Women’s Basketball East Regional Advisory Committee, Kodak All-America Selection Committee, the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, Worcester Area Basketball Coaches Association and the Young Men’s Business Association of Worcester. He is also a religious education volunteer at St. Joan of Arc Church and a volunteer coach for Worcester Youth Soccer, College Hill Youth Basketball and Tris Speaker Little League.
BASKETBALL IN THE BLOOD
Coaching successful basketball teams is synonymous with the Gibbons family. His father, Bill Gibbons, retired as the boys’ basketball coach at Doherty High School in Worcester with 373 career wins. He was also inducted into the Massachusetts Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame and the New England Basketball Hall of Fame. While a senior on his father’s Doherty squad, Bill received All-City honors. Young Bill also served as an assistant to his father while a junior in college. That same year, he was named “Coach of the Year” in the Worcester Parks and Recreation League. Bill’s brother, Tom, also a Clark graduate, is the successful head boys’ basketball coach at Wachusett Regional High School in nearby Holden, Mass. And finally, his son Billy enters his fifth season as an assistant coach for the WPI men’s basketball team.
Gibbons is a respected member of the community and has appeared as a resident coach and lecturer at many local basketball camps. During the summer, he serves as the director of the Holy Cross Girls’ Basketball Camp, one of the country’s largest and most successful girls’ summer camps, attracting more than 500 girls, ages 9-17. He has also served as a commissioner of the Holy Cross Boys’ Basketball Camp. In addition, he has been a featured speaker the past five years at the Massachusetts Basketball Coaches Association’s Basketball Clinic held at Holy Cross. Gibbons is also the President of the Worcester Area Coaches Association (WACBA), which is an organization of the 20 men’s and women’s basketball programs from the 10 central Massachusetts colleges. This year, he began a fall hoops clinic for area coaches to benefit Why Me and Sherry’s House.
Gibbons and his wife, Lisa, make their home in Worcester. They have two sons, William Robert (24) and Robert Charles (21).