May 20, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Woodbridge’s Rick Gibson grateful to ‘every player who gave me a chance to coach them’

Rick Gibson, shown with last year’s QB Kyle Hurry, is retiring as Woodbridge football coach at the end of the season. (Photo Fernando M. Donado, For OC Sports Zone)

Rick Gibson’s days as head coach of the Woodbridge High football program he has led for 32 years are winding down.

Gibson, who will be honored after Friday night’s Pacific Coast League finale with Portola at University, hopes he gets to coach at least one more game.

Gibson is hoping to lead the Warriors to a victory over PCL champion Portola which he believes would give his team (3-6, 2-2) a “pretty good chance” of advancing to the CIF playoffs.

Gibson, 59, told his players after last week’s game with University that he was retiring after the season and turning over the coaching duties to long-time assistant Aaron Craver, who was named the co-head coach in August.

“I was waiting until we played a team we played the most,” Gibson said. “University, over the years, is the team we’ve played most often. They (his players) seemed to be excited about their win and excited about the future of Woodbridge football. I mentioned Aaron Craver being the next coach and that’s why we did what we did and they seemed very excited about that.

“I see that Aaron is such a good coach. Not that he was thinking about leaving. I just thought it would be great to have him be the coach hopefully for years to come.”

Gibson said he plans to stay on another year as athletic director and then retire in the summer of 2021.

“I would be around enough to help if he needed it,” Gibson said. “Definitely I decided that I will not coach football at any level and will be there to purely support him (Craver) in his quest to be a very good head coach which I know he will be. I’m excited for him and I think he’s the perfect person to take the program into the future.

“I’ve always said I want to leave the program in good hands and in capable hands and Aaron is just such the perfect guy to do that so I just think it’s the perfect situation.”

Gibson said he appreciates the support of the principals he has worked with.

“I have been so fortunate to work with Chris Krebs, our principal and him allowing me to continue to coach, telling him that this was something I would like to do,” Gibson said of his decision to name Craver as co-head coach in August. “I thank him for listening to me and supporting me in this decision and in his words, he was excited for me and my next chapter.

“If I could thank everybody, it would be every administrator I’ve ever had. I’ve been blessed to have (former principals) Greg Cops, Tom Nelson, Jason Viloria and Chris Krebs as my bosses and they were the best. I’ve been very lucky that way.

“Because there were times when we went through some lean times. An administrator that didn’t believe in you might have moved in a different direction. They seemed to support me throughout the whole time and that shows to me a loyalty that is beyond things.”

Gibson said he is also appreciative of Gene Noji, the coach he took over for for “being a mentor to me. We were part of some big things and the staff that was so stable for many years… Kirk Harris, Roger Rommelfanger, Tom Knudson, Cliff Nelson, John Halagan, Aaron Craver … it certainly made it a lot easier. They’re the intelligence of the group, I was just kind of lucky enough to be along for the ride.”

GIbson said he is also appreciative of the players he has coached.

“I would love to thank every player who gave me a chance to coach them,” Gibson said. “It’s been a great ride and they’re the reasons why I coach, the players. I hope they got half of what I got out of coaching them. I will certainly miss that camaraderie and that relationship. I know that’s going to be the toughest thing.”

Gibson said he will miss the relationships with his players.

“The guys who came for their 30-year reunion last week and took me out after the Beckman game, hearing them talk about football it was really a sobering moment for me to think that these 50-year-old men, I had a little impact on them and I can’t put into words how much that meant to me for those guys to say that,” he said.

“The memories of the start of every season and working in the off season and in the weight room with all the players are the memories I’ll always have.”

Gibson said he is also proud of the pre-season camp his team had in the summer. This year’s camp was held in Catalina.

“Camp Bushido is something different that we did that some of the other teams do. I think it helps build a bond beyond just the football thing,” Gibson said. “I’m proudest of the Camp Bushido and what it helped bring together, hopefully life lessons. The wins and the league championships and the CIF championshps are all great. I would be lying if I said those weren’t a big bonus. I got a whole lot more out of it than I think they (his players) got out of it. It was just amazing.”

Gibson was able to form a special relationship with his players over the years.

“God gave me three girls, which I love dearly,” he said. “But I got a bunch of sons as I coached, and I truly believe that was a lesson for me to learn and to hold strong to.”

RELATED: Woodbridge officials to honor Gibson Friday night

-Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com