Last year, boys basketball coach Chris Gibson made a decision to leave the area. His decision to leave Dwight for Clinton turned out not to exactly be a pasture that was much greener.
“I was at Clinton last year. I was there for one year. A business job and basketball job came open but I wasn’t really satisfied with what I was seeing down in Clinton. Just the whole aura of the whole situation,” Gibson said at the Braidwood Shootout over the weekend. “As a family we evaluated it and just decided that it’s not a place that we wanted to be. At the end of the day, when we saw the Gardner opening and considering that my family is from Coal City and my wife’s family is from Kankakee then we decided that it’s a good move to come back up north.”
Last year’s coach Justin Stevenson left after one year at Gardner-South Wilmington High School, clearing the way for Gibson to return to local and familiar ground.
“I’m business teaching and head basketball coach right now. I’m actually taking over for Justin Stevenson, who is a Dwight kid. He’s going back to Dwight to take over as the head baseball coach and to be a business teacher there,” Gibson said. “It’s kind of ironic because he inherited the job from a retiring teacher in Dwight that I probably would have inherited had I stayed there. I’m glad to be back in the area. This is the area that I know and feel comfortable with and I’m glad to be back home.”
Previous to his one year with Clinton, Gibson spent three years in Dwight (2009, 2010, 2011) before he sought what looked like much greener pastures.
“Clinton kind of lured me away with a full-district, AD position and basketball position,” Gibson said. “I ended up going because of the money and I don’t know that I’ll ever make another decision like that again.”
Before his days in Dwight, Gibson worked as an assistant coach at Olivet Nazarene University from 2002-2005 and before that he was head basketball coach in Midland where he went 55-55 from 1998-2002. Before that he worked with Mitch Hamann at Coal City.
“Coach Hamann was my sophomore coach in high school and, after I was at Pontiac for two years as a volunteer assistant, he contacted me and asked me to be his first full-time assistant,” Gibson said. “I was an assistant there in 1997-98. That was the 22-5 team — we had a nice year.”
GSW finished 2-24 this past winter, but Gibson says that this year’s crew is not without the tools it needs to succeed.
“I can tell you this. The kids are coachable. They want to learn, they are working hard and their attitudes are really strong. I was told in my interview that there are really good kids here and I’m seeing that this summer. They are working hard and playing together,” Gibson said. “We lost to Bishop-McNamara (Friday) — a 3A school — by 12. Then we beat Wilmington by 20. Things are coming together. We have a real good nucleus of juniors and the senior class does have tools to work with. There are also some younger kids who are going to have the chance to vie for other positions on the varsity.”
Gibson said that he’s a coach who likes to find common ground between practicing in the summer and playing games.
“I’m a little in the middle. Especially being a new coach, I like to try to take the first summer and be in the gym as much as possible and to get them to practice and learning new things,” he said. “It does us no good to come out there and not know what we are doing and to just play a bunch of games.
We’ve played one other tournament at Bismark-Henning and we went 1-2 down there. It was the chance for us to get away from local competition. We also played over at Putnam County where we played them pretty tough and lost to St. Bede by five. We’ve also played Braidwood and St. Anne and both of those teams have done well. But for the most part, we are in the gym three times a week where we are practicing and working had and learning a new system.”
Something that GSW and Gibson are hoping to be in place before they play neighboring rival Dwight — and for multiple reasons.
“There’s two things. With me coming back, I know I don’t want to be the story, but it does put a new wrinkle on it,” Gibson said. “But the other thing is the fact that Dwight is dropping back down to 1A and that’s another big wrinkle. They should be in our regional.”
At the shootout over the weekend, GSW lost to Bishop-McNamara 64-52, beat Wilmington 54-24, beat Iroquois West 57-54, lost to Manteno 54-29 and lost to Marquette 63-44 in the consolation third-place game.