Tim Gilbride reacts during a regular season game against Bates during the 2018-19 season. Gilbride announced his retirement Tuesday after 35 seasons with the Polar Bears. Photo provided by Bowdoin College

BRUNSWICK — Tim Gilbride said he’s contemplated retirement for some time now. 

“When you put your heart and soul into something for as long as I have, it becomes a way of life and you know when it’s just time for it to end,” the Bowdoin College men’s basketball coach said. “I’m sure it (the coronavirus pandemic) played a part, but this has been on my mind regardless of the ongoing current events.”

Gilbride, 68, made it official Tuesday, when he announced he would retire at the end of the academic year after 35 seasons with the Polar Bears. Gilbride, who is also an assistant athletic director, won a program-best 494 games. Ray Bicknell is second with 202 victories. Gilbride, a Topsham resident, also won 104 games as the Bowdoin men’s soccer coach from 1985-99.

He said while earning career victory No. 500 would’ve been “nice,” the timing was right.

“I chose not to think about it that way. If I stay and I get this many wins, then there will always be another total to strive toward,” said Gilbride, who was inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013. “I’m proud of all the NCAA and ECAC wins and those big moments, but it’s more about the players and the relationships you build with them, that was the most rewarding part of the experience for me personally.

“I’ve always been about going 100 percent at everything you do, but doing it the right way. I see the graduates in their professional careers utilizing that mentality, which was the most fulfilling for me and made me prouder than any moment on the court. Don’t get me wrong, wins are fantastic, but it’s all the work you put into it, that’s what makes it special and worth it in my eyes.” 

Past and present players said Gilbride will be missed.

Tim Gilbride smiles while talking with an assistant coach during a game against Connecticut College in the 2018-19 season in Brunswick. Photo provided by Bowdoin College

“He always did his best to keep in touch with us on a personal level on a bi-weekly basis to talk about anything going on in our lives other than basketball,” said senior forward Cameron Withers. “I’ll be forever grateful for not only the things he taught me, but for when he would help me through struggles off the court. He did all the little things that make a program great.”

Added 2016 Bowdoin graduate and South Portland native Matt Palecki, who later joined Gilbride’s coaching staff: “I always look back and think that we were more of a family than a basketball team. He cared about each player individually and took time out of his personal life to get to know each of us on a personal level, which really helped us form a connection with him as a person, not just a player.

“He went out of his way to have team bonding activities. We’d have a preseason cookout on Popham Beach, and the end-of-year banquet was always memorable; those are where my favorite memories come from away from the court.”

Gilbride earned New England Small College Athletic Conference coach of the year honors in 2007-08, when the Polar Bears 22-7 and reached the second round of the NCAA Division III tournament. 

In 1997-98, Gilbride became the first coach in NCAA history to lead a men’s soccer and men’s basketball teams to an NCAA tournament berth in the same year.

Colby men’s basketball coach Damien Strahorn acknowledged the NESCAC is losing one of its greatest coaches.

“The NESCAC conference truly has coaches that are legends of the game, and Tim (Gilbride) is no doubt one of those,” he said. “I’ll always remember the times before our games at Bowdoin when he (Gilbride) would come over to our locker room before the game to say hello and we’d catch up. It just speaks to the person he is to go out of his way to make me feel comfortable during my first few years in the conference.”

Gilbride said he will miss coaching, particularly the challenge of building a close-knit team.

“I guess what I’d like to leave behind is that value of being a part of a team, and the sacrifices that come along with it,” said Gilbride. “There’s nothing like a group of individuals coming together for a common good, whether it’s in basketball or anywhere else in life. I hope I’ve left an impact on each player I’ve coached and the program as a whole, because I know they’ve made an impact on me.” 

As for what’s next, Gilbride plans to remain active. He said he plans to stay in the Midcoast area and spend more time with his family, specifically with his grandchildren in Massachusetts and upstate New York. He also said he plans to fish as much as he can and work on his golf game.  

“I do love to go golfing, but I’m terrible at it,” said Gilbride. “I’ll probably try and get better at golfing since I’ll have the time, but I think I’ll mainly stick to fishing.”

 

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