White River’s Gibson enters hoop Hall of Fame

Chris Gibson has been leading teams for 28 seasons, posting numbers that landed him in the Hall of Fame. Photo by Dennis Box.

The numbers speak for themselves: 28 years of coaching, 724 games on the bench and 516 career victories, resulting in a .713 winning percentage.

Perform the sports math and those add up to Hall of Fame credentials for Chris Gibson, longtime coach of the White River High girls basketball program.

Gibson found himself in the spotlight Friday night, honored as a 2017 inductee into the Washington State Girls Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He is part of the second class to enter the hall and, making him unique, Gibson is the only one still in the coaching game.

“I certainly didn’t expect something like this for another 10 years,” he said, acknowledging that Hall of Famers have typically slipped into retirement.

Speaking of retirees, Gibson is hearing a pertinent question more often these days – is he thinking of stepping down? The answer is a definite no.

“I get just as excited for a game now as I did 25 years ago,” he said, sitting at his desk at White River High, where he does double-duty as the district athletic director.

While he admits to having seen just about anything the coaching profession can throw at him – “nothing surprises me anymore,” he said – the passion remains.

IN THE BEGINNING

Gibson comes from a household that instilled the qualities found in successful coaches. He credits his father, Les, for providing a passion for athletics; his mother, Joan, taught compassion.

Truly a South Sound product, Gibson graduated in 1982 from Puyallup High School, where he lettered in both basketball and baseball. A rotator cuff injury derailed plans of pitching past the high school level, so Gibson headed off to Green River Community College. By 1984, he was working at Boeing, his employer for the next 11 years.

His first taste of coaching came in 1983 when he joined with his father at the helm of his sister’s softball team. He started a select program in 1985 and by 1990 guided the squad to an American Softball Association national championship.

It was while using facilities at Franklin Pierce High School that Gibson had the good fortune of befriending Jim Meyerhoff. The Franklin Pierce athletic director eventually offered Gibson a job coaching the Cardinal girls basketball team; from 1992-94 Gibson added the fastpitch program to his coaching duties, taking the Cardinals to a Class 2A state title in 1992.

During his eight seasons with the girls basketball program, Gibson compiled a record of 104-87, twice earning trips to the state tournament and, in 1997, winning the West Central District tournament.

Meyerhoff eventually moved into the athletic director’s office at White River and, prior to the 1997-98 season, hired Gibson to lead the Hornet hoop program.

HALL OF FAME NUMBERS

It has been at White River that Gibson fashioned the type of career that lands a coach in the Hall of Fame.

In short, his Hornets have become known statewide for their long run of success. His two-decade span includes 16 league championships, eight district titles and – most important – 19 appearances in either the 2A or 3A state tournament. Once in the state’s Sweet 16, Gibson’s teams have delivered seven trophies to Buckley; the best finishes came in 2000 and 2012 when the Hornets garnered third-place honors.

The ongoing success “is a testament to the many very talented and dedicated young ladies who have come through our program,” Gibson wrote to the Hall of Fame Committee. He also made sure to credit the assistant coaches who have helped lead the program through the years as well as “the countless parents and community members who have supported our program for so long.”