Header

Gaffney introduced as GC head coach

Dustin Kent

PANAMA CITY — For the better part of the last two decades, when anyone mentioned the words “Gulf Coast basketball,” the first thought for most with any knowledge of junior college basketball has been the Gulf Coast women, and with good reason.

Legendary coach Roonie Scovel’s Lady Commodores have been the dominant program in the state and arguably the top program in the country for the past 20 years, tallying six national championships while playing in the most competitive conference in the nation.

For new Gulf Coast men’s basketball coach Phil Gaffney, the hope is that he can make the Commodore men a part of that conversation in the very near future.

The former Georgia Highlands coach was introduced as the Commodores’ head man Monday afternoon at a press conference at the school and brings a lengthy and impressive resume to the job.

Gaffney, 53, has been a Division I assistant at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and a head coach at four different junior colleges, leading all four to single season wins records.

His most notable achievements came at Georgia Highlands, as the led the Chargers to 139 wins against just 31 losses in five seasons and reached the NJCAA semifinals in 2015 and 2016.

Having similar success at Gulf Coast will be the challenge for Gaffney, though he said for inspiration he need only look down the hall at the Billy Harrison Field House.

“Obviously you can win here if you look at coach Scovel winning six national championships,” he said. “You can win national championships here. It might not be easy, but it’s doable. I think (Scovel) really laid the groundwork and created the blueprint, so I can definitely learn something from her.”

Gulf Coast athletic director Mike Kandler said he was happy to get a coach with a track record of success at multiple schools, particularly success on a national scale at a school with fewer resources than he will have with the Commodores.

“I think it shows that he’s a proven winner who can adapt to wherever he is,” he said. “That was important. Also important that Georgia Highlands, which probably doesn’t offer quite as good a package as we do, but having success at the national level and in the national tournament. All of this together made us think that this is a guy who can figure out how to win here.”

Gaffney is no stranger to the Panhandle Conference, playing nine games against Panhandle teams while at Georgia Highlands and going 5-4 with two wins over Chipola and Tallahassee and another over Gulf Coast.

A Panhandle team dealt Gaffney perhaps his most devastating defeat when Northwest Florida State erased a 15-point deficit in the 2015 final four to win 105-103 in overtime en route to a national championship.

Still, Gaffney said he’s excited about the opportunity to compete on a regular basis in the nation’s premier JUCO league.

“That will be great,” he said. “I have a track record playing against these guys and I feel confident we can be competitive. I’m not gonna say we’ll win the Panhandle Conference in the first year. That would be insane. But I think coach Kandler and coach Scovel want a competitive team on the floor night in and night out that’s playing hard and playing the right way.”

Competing at the same level as the elite of the Panhandle Conference requires recruiting at their level and Gaffney said getting the right players to Gulf Coast to contend for titles is his top priority.

While he had plenty of success getting talent to Georgia Highlands, Gaffney said he believes recruiting to Gulf Coast and to the Panhandle Conference should be even easier.

“If anything we should get a better level kid,” he said. “That’s no disrespect to Georgia Highlands, which has been great to me. We showed we can win there, but just being in the Panhandle Conference and the notoriety and the great community that is Panama City and Panama City Beach, it’s all just a win-win.

“Sometimes you have to recruit kids and develop them over time and sometimes you get kids who can just play right away. I think we’re gonna get a lot of play right-away guys here.”

A native Watertown, N.Y., Gaffney, a self-described “ham-and-egger,” worked his way up the coaching ranks at places such as Division III schools Columbia-Greene Community College in Hudson, N.Y., and Mohawk Valley Community College in Utica, N.Y., as well as Division II Guilford Technical Community College in Jamestown, N.C., leading each to top five national rankings and winning 500 games along the way.

Gaffney will look to continue his winning ways at Gulf Coast, where he has a very specific definition of what for him will constitute success.

“I think the No. 1 thing is Hutch, Hutch is the big thing,” he said of the national tournament in Hutchinson, Kan. “When you’re a JUCO coach that’s the big deal. That’s where the best people are in your professions. That’s what we have to do, we have to get there.

“It would be nice to get there by winning the Panhandle, but you don’t have to win it to get there. This is a three-team league, not necessarily always, but there’s a good chance that three teams from the state will make the national tournament. That’s something we’ve got to be and strive to be one of those teams to get there and then make a run.”

NJCAA
FCSAA
GCSC
Gulf Coast State College Athletics | 5230 West Highway 98 | Panama City, FL | 850.769.1551
©2011 | Privacy Policy | Webmaster