Posted: 6:23 am Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Willie Gibson “wouldn’t bet against” return 

By Jason Lieser

Santaluces boys basketball coach Willie Gibson, the only man ever to hold that position, sounds like he’s planning on at least one more season with the Chiefs, but said he might not make his final decision until fall.


After 27 seasons in charge, and fresh off a trip to the state final four, Gibson stands at 496 wins. He said in March the 500-win plateau would not be a major factor in his decision, and has various personal considerations.

“I’m still evaluating this thing,” Gibson said Wednesday. “It’s a tough call right now. It’s still 50-50, still looking at some things.”

He still is fulfilling all of the duties of a head coach, including holding a team banquet and attending district meetings to set next year’s schedule.

Gibson, 58, made several comments vaguely indicating he wants to continue coaching. He said he still has the competitive edge, and being around his players lately has reminded him of his passion for affecting kids. Those feelings are enticing him to return for at least one more season.

“I wouldn’t bet against it,” Gibson said.

“When you get back around the kids, that’s when you feel it. Those kids are what it’s all about. That’s what kept me going all these years.”

The nice thing for Gibson is that he has no deadline for the decision. Santaluces has not and will not give him a mandated timeframe to inform the school of his plans.

The biggest reason for that is Reggie Dixon, his son-in-law and longtime assistant. Gibson would like Dixon to be his successor, and is confident the transition would be simple and seamless.

“There’s no big rush, because the program is in good shape if I decide not to (come back),” Gibson said.

Gibson even went so far as to say he could decide to retire on the eve of the team’s first practice because Dixon is prepared to step in at a moment’s notice.

Athletic director Bill Bretherick agrees, though he said it would be premature to label Dixon as coach-in-waiting.

“I’d probably present it more like a hope,” Bretherick said. “We have all the confidence in the world in Reggie and we would hope that would be the case, but I don’t want to speak for him.

“We definitely have somebody that’s ready to step in if (Gibson retires). Part of the reason we’re not in a panic over that is we have Reggie to fall back on. When it comes to that, I don’t think that will be a hard decision.”

It’s obvious Santaluces would be happy to have Gibson stay, but Bretherick does not want to make public statements to that effect because that might put pressure on Gibson to come back.

“I think at this point, we’re hoping Willie makes the right decision for him,” Bretherick said. “We want him to be happy with whatever decision he makes.”