PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The search for the next Gulf Coast men's basketball coach took longer than expected to start.
Jay Powell stepped down in February. Six weeks later, the search commenced...and it quickly came to an end on Monday.
Phil Gaffney takes over the program after seven years at Georgia Highlands, where he also served as athletic director.
Gaffney led the chargers to the NJCAA Final Four twice. The 24 year head coaching veteran has tallied more than 500 career victories at four schools, owning the single-season wins record at each previous stop: Georgia Highlands (34), Guilford Tech (28), Mohawk Valley (27), and Columbia-Greene (22).
Gulf coast officially welcomed Gaffney Monday afternoon at Harrison Field House. Soon after leaving the lobby, it'll be time to get to work in one of the toughest conferences in the country.
"I have played all these teams," Gaffney said of his Panhandle competition. "I have a little bit of success against them, so it's not like it's intimidating to come in, but truth be told they are great recruiters. They do a great job, and the Panhandle is a great place to recruit to. I think you have to sell all the good things about Gulf Coast State. Panama City is a great place. It's a great place. It's a great school. It's a great place to continue your education. So I think you have to hit all those themes home."
While moving to schools with better pedigrees and attracting higher levels of talent, his style has stayed largely the same, and so has the word he uses to describe it.
"Part of the reason it's crazy is because I was at schools that didn't have as much to offer as Gulf Coast does and we weren't able to get 6'9" 6"10" 6'11" 7 footers," Gaffney recalled. "We were able to get 6'5" guys who played really hard. So what we did is we had a style that was very fast, so if you were going to play your 7 footer, that was fine, but he was going to have to run up and down the floor a whole lot along with our 6'5" guys. We're still going to play very fast, very exciting. We love alley oops. We love three point shots. We get up and down, wear the opponent out, and make them play our style."
Gaffney transitions into the role following Jay Powell's 12 year tenure in which he went 204-148 and became the program's all-time wins leader.
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