GARDNER — Chris Gibson was slated to enter his sixth season at the helm of Gardner-South Wilmington’s boys’ basketball program.
But a late opportunity presented itself, and he simply couldn’t pass on it.
After five years at Gardner as coach and the school’s athletic director, Gibson officially was approved and hired as the new athletic director at Peotone High School and assistant principal at Peotone Junior High.
“I had applied for a few jobs and interviewed for a couple of positions, but those school boards chose to go in other directions,” Gibson said. “The Peotone job popped up in the third week of July as an admin position, and I just graduated with my master’s degree in December. I was looking to get into that area of administration, and when I saw that the AD position was also open, it was the best of both worlds. I’ll get to have some experience working alongside [Peotone Junior High principal] Scott Wenzel and stay connected to athletics, so it’s a great fit.”
The Panthers already went through summer camp and participated in a couple of tournaments, including winning the consolation bracket in the Braidwood Shootout back in June.
Which made the decision to leave that much harder.
“I think everybody knew I was looking for other jobs, but the big shock was the move came late in the summer,” Gibson said. “But when I told the players I was leaving, the reaction was extremely positive. I texted every player and received a lot of ‘Good lucks,’ ‘I’m going to miss you’ and ‘Thank you for everything you did for the program,’ things like that. I wish them nothing but the absolute best this year and beyond.”
Although the 2017-18 season was the worst season record-wise for the Panthers under Gibson, he looks back with fond memories.
The Panthers accumulated an 82-56 record under Gibson, including two 20-win seasons and an RVC conference championship in his third year.
“It was a really special time at Gardner, and a lot of it was because of the kids and the passion they had,” Gibson said. “I’m beyond proud of what we accomplished in five years. I remember the first year like it was yesterday. G-SW was 2-24 the year before, so we came in, made a culture change and turned everything around.
“Beating Dwight in my second year when they were ranked No. 4 in the state, that was a special win for me, especially with me being the former coach. It was an even more special win for Gardner because of the rivalry.”
Gibson said after his one year at Clinton, which he admits was not a good fit for him, coming back into the area and being at Gardner rejuvenated him and gave him his mojo back.
“Gardner really gave me my passion for kids and coaching back,” Gibson said. “Those five years taught me that I can go though a rough experience and bounce right back. The students and staff at Gardner really gave me a new outlook on life and opened my eyes.”
Now, he’s ready to bring that energy and excitement to Peotone.
“I’m excited to work with junior high kids, which I haven’t gotten to do very much,” Gibson said. “I also get to work with more sports like football, track and other sports that aren’t at Gardner. I’ll definitely miss the kids and coaching at Gardner. Whoever lands that job has a great group of kids to work with.”