Posted: 10:55 am Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Village Academy hires coaching legend Willie Gibson 

By Jason Lieser

As longtime Santaluces basketball coach Willie Gibson openly pondered retirement the past few years, he often hinted he could be reenergized by a new challenge.

Now he has one.

Village Academy, a Delray Beach school that has only competed in the Florida High School Athletic Association for two years, hired Gibson as athletic director and boys basketball coach.

Willie Gibson during the 2010 playoffs (Taylor Jones/The Post).

Willie Gibson during the 2010 playoffs (Taylor Jones/The Post).

“This is a perfect opportunity,” he said. “This is what I love doing. I get to build a program again. It’s something I really couldn’t turn down.”

Gibson, 59, is a Palm Beach County Hall of Fame inductee who won 512 games and reached the state final four twice in 28 seasons at Santaluces. He started the Chiefs’ basketball program in 1982 and was their only coach.

He also worked as athletic director for three years after 11 as an assistant.

“We’re really, really excited about this,” said Guarn Sims, who will leave Royal Palm Beach to become Village Academy’s principal by the end of this school year. “This will move our young basketball program and young athletics program to an entirely new level.

“It brings instant credibility to a young, flourishing basketball program.”

Sims, who graduated from Santaluces in 1987, played football and basketball at the school and had Gibson as a physical education teacher.

Going to Village Academy is a return to Gibson’s Delray Beach roots. He starred as a guard for the now-defunct Seacrest High and led Palm Beach County in scoring during his senior season.

Village Academy opened in 2000 and houses Kindergarten through high school grade levels. Next year, it will have its first graduating class, which Sims said will include 30 students.

It is an open enrollment school open to any student in Delray Beach.

The FHSAA classified Village Academy’s basketball team as independent last season, meaning the team was not eligible for the state playoffs. Gibson said his team will join District 13-1A — a division highlighted by Grandview Prep — this season.

Santaluces named assistant coach Reggie Dixon, Gibson’s son-in-law, as his successor.