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ThunderDawgs make early switch at coach

By MIKE READLING

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 20, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- When the Tampa Bay ThunderDawgs hired Darryl Dawkins as their coach early last summer he appeared to be the prototypical ABA 2000 coach.

A former ABA player with some professional coaching experience and the willingness to become involved in the community, Dawkins seemed a logical choice.

Eleven games into the season with only three wins, however, Dawkins went from being the first coach hired for the start-up league to the first one fired after Thursday night's 117-105 loss to the San Diego Wildfire. Former Florida Southern College coach Gordon Gibbons was named as Dawkins' successor and introduced to the team Friday morning.

"We felt the team needed a new direction," said ThunderDawgs general manager Deb Belinsky.

"Gordon Gibbons brings a wealth of coaching experience and a local presence to the ThunderDawgs."

Gibbons, 53, is somewhat of a local basketball icon.

He coached the United States Basketball Association's Tampa Bay Flash to league titles in 1986 1987 and has coached at South Florida and most recently Florida Southern. As coach of the Mocs for 10 seasons, Gibbons compiled a record of 246-65 and qualified for the NCAA Division II tournament six times.

"At this time in my career it is exciting to be able to match wits with the likes of Joey Meyer, Paul Westhead and George Gervin," Gibbons said. "I'm happy for the opportunity to return to coach at this level."

Gibbons replaced former assistants Darren Sanderlin and Eric Rashard with Tony Shield, a former coach at Bethune-Cookman and Delaware State, and Brent Buchanan, a former graduate assistant at Florida Southern. He also installed Ted Owens, who was replaced in 1983 by Larry Brown as coach at Kansas after 20 years, as the director of basketball operations.

Gibbons said the current roster, which includes former Moccasin player Innocent Kere, will remain intact at least through Sunday's home game against Los Angeles. After that the 'Dawgs have five practice days before the next game, and his staff will re-evaluate them.

"Their biggest problem has been defense," said Gibbons, who has attended several ThunderDawgs home games and workouts. "Opponents have been averaging 117 points per game and you just can't have that. That's got to be the area we're going to spend the most time on right off the bat."

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