There are few concepts as universally reviled as the “coach-in-waiting” phenomenon that swept through college football in the late 00’s – but maybe it would be more accepted if everyone had the same sort of success as the St. John’s baseball program had with such a plan.
First, a little history, Ed Gibbs took over the St. John’s program in 1993, hoping to revive the St. John’s nine to the glory he had been a part of as a student, winning the Catholic League in 1966.
He was wildly successful, as the 1994 team started a run of success by going 26-4 in the elder Gibbs’ second season.
Entering the 2004 season, Gibbs brought on former St. John’s star – and his own son – Mark Gibbs as an assistant coach. Even though the elder Gibbs entered the season with 248 prep wins under his belt and the junior Gibbs had never managed his way to a single one, Ed Gibbs provided his son with plenty of autonomy to begin building for a future that wouldn’t involve him.
“He really gave me a lot of authority and independence to coach in my first three years,” Mark Gibbs said. “He allowed me to implement a full year-long program. He gave me a lot of independence to implement what I wanted to do with the program, because he knew the plan was to turn it over in a few years, so he started letting me get things in motion the way I wanted to do it right away. He was still the head coach, he was still controlling what we were doing, but the amount of stuff we were doing, he let me implement.”
Ed Gibbs stepped aside in 2007 with a lifetime 318-78 (.803) record, and Mark took over full-time.
When assessing the success of a coach-in-waiting, it is not prudent to judge solely on the first year, in which the new coach may still be finding success with the players that were taught by the old coach. In Mark Gibbs’ fifth year at St. John’s, he’s amassed a scalding 127-34 (.789) record so far. It’s safe to say the transition was rather seamless, especially after the Cadets took home the WCAC championship last season.
Ed Gibbs established a winning tradition that was instilled on many players, his two sons among them. Mark Gibbs credits his father for showing him how a coach can affect the entire team’s will to win.
“He was a coach from March to May. He worked as hard as anyone from March to May as a high school coach could to win every day with the players he had,” Mark Gibbs said.
“He was not going to accept not being competitive and not winning and not being in championship games. Once that got instilled in the players, it went from one group to the next.”
Whereas Ed Gibbs was partner in the Gibbs and Haller law practice in Maryland, Mark Gibbs was hired a full-time baseball coach, giving him the ability to focus solely on the team.
He felt that was the next step in going from a power in the D.C. area to being a national powerhouse.
“You look at great high school programs, whether it’s baseball, football, lacrosse, basketball, whatever, they all do one thing: they all are together year-round and working for one common goal,” Mark Gibbs said. “You look at the most successful programs, and that’s what they do. That’s what we wanted to become, we wanted to be a nationally recognized program.”
They’ve been just that, finishing the season ranked nationally in each of the last seven seasons, which dovetails nicely with the start of year-round activities in ’04.
Another hallmark of nationally prominent programs is their ability to compete year in and year out, seemingly regardless of the losses the program sustains from season to season.
Entering the spring, the Cadets lost six starters to graduation from last year’s team, and outsiders would have projected them to have a rebuilding year of sorts. The team has responded by going 21-1 this season, and has definitively proven themselves to be among the best team in the area.
“From the outside looking in, we had six guys leave who had played a lot since their sophomore year,” Mark Gibbs said. “As you look at it on paper, you say ‘you lost a whole bunch, what do you have left?’ Well, the group we’re playing has been playing together since their freshman year. It’s not like they didn’t have any experience – five of them were on the field for the championship game.”
But for Gibbs to call this season a success, there’s one final mountain left to climb – the WCAC playoffs, with a championship at the summit.
“The fact is, it doesn’t really matter what we do in the first part of the season,” Mark Gibbs said. “This team, with every other St. John’s team, is judged by what they do in the playoffs.”
|3/10/2012||Sidwell Friends Baseball||No||W 10-0|
|3/13/2012||Lake Braddock||No||L 5-3|
|3/15/2012||Maret Baseball||No||W 10-0|
|3/17/2012||@ Gonzaga Baseball||Yes||W 11-6|
|3/20/2012||@ McNamara Baseball||Yes||W 9-1|
|3/22/2012||@ O'Connell Baseball||Yes||W 10-0|
|3/24/2012||McNamara Baseball||Yes||W 4-3|
|3/29/2012||@ Paul VI Baseball||Yes||W 8-5|
|3/30/2012||St. Mary's Ryken Baseball||Yes||W 6-1|
|4/2/2012||Bishop Ireton Baseball||Yes||W 7-1|
|4/5/2012||@ Spalding||No||W 10-9|
|4/7/2012||Good Counsel Baseball||Yes||W 3-2|
|4/10/2012||@ St. Anne's Belfield||No||W 11-1|
|4/11/2012||@ Westchester Country Day Baseball (NC)||No||W 9-2|
|4/12/2012||@ Caldwell Academy (NC)||No||W 12-2|
|4/13/2012||@ Charlotte Country Day (NC)||No||W 9-4|
|4/17/2012||@ DeMatha||Yes||W 6-3|
|4/19/2012||Paul VI Baseball||Yes||W 4-0|
|4/21/2012||O'Connell Baseball||Yes||W 14-8|
|4/24/2012||Bishop Ireton Baseball||Yes||W 2-1|
|4/28/2012||@ Good Counsel Baseball||Yes|
|5/2/2012||@ St. Mary's Ryken Baseball||Yes|