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Ex-Philly U star Andre Gibbs enjoying transition to college coaching

09/20/2021, 3:30pm EDT
By Steven Shoemaker

Steven Shoemaker (@steven_shoe)

From a young age, Andre Gibbs fell in love with the sport of basketball. A talented Division-II point guard, Gibbs has continued his love for the game by stepping into the world of coaching.

Gibbs, an assistant coach at Queens University of Charlotte, has had an unusual basketball journey, battling through injuries, meeting the love of his life and now embracing the role of coaching in women’s basketball.

A former Philadelphia University star, Andre Gibbs is now a full-time assistant coach for the Division II Queens University of Charlotte women's program. (Photo provided)

Gibbs attended Smyrna High School (Delaware), where he played all four years under head coach Mike Starkey and scored over 1,600 points. By his junior year, Gibbs was attracting interest from Brown University and Delaware schools. Gibbs even took a visit to the school his older brother Paul Gibbs III attended, Wesley College (Delaware). But Gibbs knew he wanted to carve out his own path as a hooper.

“When you play ball in a small town like Smyrna, most of the recruiting done by colleges is done during your AAU career,” said Gibbs, who played AAU for We R1 Delaware.

After his junior season, Gibbs was contacted by Philadelphia University assistant coach Jimmy Reilly. Philly U’s interest intensified after they saw one of Gibbs’ AAU games in West Chester. Gibbs decided to visit the school (which merged with Jefferson University in 2017), and met Hall of Fame head coach Herb Magee.

“I ended up going back for several visits and fell in love with the campus and team,” Gibbs said. “After the visits, coach Magee and coach Reilly saw everything they needed to see.”

Once Gibbs was extended the offer, he knew it was one that he could not pass up. Little did Gibbs know that what would come during the next five years would change his life forever.

Gibbs had an impressive career playing at Philly U. During his freshman year at Philly U, Gibbs was the Freshman of the Year for the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) and was on the Freshman All-American team. 

His sophomore year, Gibbs ranked fifth in the conference in assists and led the CACC with a 88.9 free throw percentage. Gibbs continued to excel as a junior, starting all 32 games for one of the top D-II programs in the Northeast and playing 39.8 minutes per game, second in the conference. 

“If you create genuine relationships with your players, they will run through a wall for you,” Reilly said. “He was here for five years, and I wish we could have had five more with him. With Andre, our jobs were a lot easier that’s for sure.”

But heading into his senior season, Gibbs hit a setback, suffering a torn ACL. After redshirting, Gibbs returned to the floor as a fifth-year senior, averaging 12.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game and topping the 1,000-point career mark.

But just when things were starting to look up again, Gibbs suffered a torn Achilles during the playoffs, ending his collegiate playing career.

Andre Gibbs scored over 1,000 points in his college career at Philadelphia University. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

After two serious leg injuries in two years, Gibbs decided to step away from basketball, pursuing a career in business as an accountant. However, being away from the game made Gibbs realize how much he missed it. So when the Bryn Mawr Eagles coaching staff needed some help, he stepped in as a volunteer assistant. Working with players, Gibbs immediately fell in love with coaching.

His then-girlfriend, Jennifer Schmidt, also coached at Bryn Mawr after playing at Penn State Abington. The two actually met at one of Herb Magee’s basketball camps during Gibbs’ junior year of college and got married earlier this summer. Following one season with the Eagles, Gibbs moved with Schmidt two years ago to Charlotte, North Carolina, and later landed a part-time assistant coaching job with D-II Queens University of Charlotte while also working as a full-time auditor. 

“It was my first-year coaching, and it was a COVID year, so I got thrown right in the fire, but it was a really eye-opening experience,” Gibbs said.

Gibbs needed to make many adjustments; from last-minute game cancellations to arranging for players to stay in hotels for up to two weeks to avoid exposure to COVID-19. His duties also extended to daily mental health check-ins with players. 

“X’s and O’s is just 10% of the game,” said Gibbs. “I was the academic coach, I was the mental health coach, and all of that really helped mold me into who I am now.”

Under first-year head coach Jennifer Brown, who decided on the team motto “adapt and overcome,” Gibbs learned a lot about coaching and the importance of mental health. After just one year at Queens, Gibbs was promoted to full-time Royals assistant coach this past May. 

While Gibbs’ playing career ended on a sour note, the 26-year-old believes there is a silver lining to everything. His ACL and Achilles injuries taught him the importance of being able to adapt and overcome and without his injuries, Gibbs might not have jumped into coaching as soon as he did. Gibbs can now pass on the lessons he learned from those orderals, an especially pertinent point after freshman forward Jori Wilkes suffered a torn ACL this past season.

Another big reason Gibbs got into coaching is because of the coaches he met along the way. From Starkey to McGee to the coaches he met at Bryn Mawr, Gibbs has learned a lot about the importance of relationships for a basketball player. Gibbs credits Magee and Reilly as being not only his mentors, but his family as well.

“They impacted my life in a positive way ever since I stepped on campus,” Gibbs said. “For me I always knew I wanted to pay that forward, so I knew I wanted to get into coaching just to impact young student athletes' lives, and having that opportunity to do so I didn’t want to pass that up.”

Gibbs still talks to the two coaches several times a week and goes to them with questions about coaching or life. He understands the importance of establishing relationships with not only your coaches and teammates, but anyone who is able to influence your career in a positive way.

“What you’re going to remember is the relationships,” Magee once said to Gibbs. 

“I can’t thank him enough for saying that because it’s true, it’s absolutely true,” Gibbs said. “Yes, all the accolades and scoring points were fun, the championships were fun, but the one thing I remember is the relationships I formed with every single one of my teammates and coaches.”

Now a full-time coach, Gibbs continues to learn every day. He will take all the skills he has learned, as well as advice from his mentors, and apply it to his job.

The former star player is turning into a mentor. 

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