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Gilger’s professionalism, dedication to Lourdes basketball unparalleled


CHRIS J. GREGO/STAFF PHOTO Our Lady of Lourdes junior varsity basketball coach Bill Gilger walks off the court at halftime of his team’s game against Schuylkill Haven Thursday evening in Coal Township. Gilger has announced his retirement at the end of this season following 38 years with the program.

CHRIS J. GREGO/STAFF PHOTO Our Lady of Lourdes junior varsity basketball coach Bill Gilger walks off the court at halftime of his team’s game against Schuylkill Haven Thursday evening in Coal Township. Gilger has announced his retirement at the end of this season following 38 years with the program.

Professional, classy, dedicated.

Those three words best describe big brother Bill Gilger Jr., who is retiring at the end of the season after coaching boys basketball at Our Lady of Lourdes Regional High School for 38 years.

His devotion to coaching and teaching at his alma mater for almost four decades is incredible.

As a freshman and junior varsity head coach, and assistant varsity coach, his teams have won numerous games and multiple championships, with the crown jewel being the 1989-90 season in which the Red Raiders captured the PIAA Class A state title. He also guided the 1999-2000 junior varsity squad to an undefeated season.

Bill was the head girls softball coach at Lourdes from 1980 to 1994. His 1983 softball team finished the regular season with a 15-0 record, a division title and silver medal in district playoffs.

But more important than all the wins are the teamwork, discipline and pride he has instilled in his numerous players including my three sons, Mark Jr., Matthew and Michael. He also has helped thousands of students he has taught become successful in different professions.

He has laid a great foundation over the years for teens to become well respected adults.

Bill has coached under legendary head varsity basketball coaches John McKay and Lee Korbich and former longtime assistant varsity coach and athletic director Leo “Mr. Lourdes” Mulhall.

He has coached former head coach Pete Long, current head coach James Sandri and current assistant coach Matt

CHRIS J. GREGO/STAFF PHOTO Tommy Ryan, left, speaks to the crowd about his longtime friend and fellow Lourdes graduate, coach Bill Gilger during a halftime ceremony to honor Gilger Thursday night at Our Lady of Lourdes Regional School in Coal Township.

CHRIS J. GREGO/STAFF PHOTO Tommy Ryan, left, speaks to the crowd about his longtime friend and fellow Lourdes graduate, coach Bill Gilger during a halftime ceremony to honor Gilger Thursday night at Our Lady of Lourdes Regional School in Coal Township.

Reiprish, co-captain of the state championship team.

He has worked well for many years with athletic director Michael “Gish” Klembara, who has a legendary resume of his own as the girls varsity basketball coach and former head football coach.

My brother, who is a son of Betty Gilger, Shamokin, and the late William J. Gilger Sr., is the ultimate company man. He remains calm under the most hectic situations and has had a profound influence on many of his players and students.

Bill, who twice declined the head coaching position during his career, has had his share of talented players over the years, but it’s what you accomplish with that talent that counts. He has certainly been able to get the most out of his players, who all play hard for him.

Students come to Lourdes for a quality Catholic education and many athletes have been attracted to the parochial school because of its tradition-rich basketball program. Bill can be very proud of being part of one of the most successful basketball programs and schools in the state.

He is very loyal to Lourdes and has developed a great relationship with his fellow teachers, coaches, administrators, staff and students.

After graduating from Lourdes in 1975, Bill earned a degree in physical education and health from Penn State University in 1979. He began teaching at Lourdes in November 1979 and started his coaching career in 1980.

Over the years, he has served as a

CHRIS J. GREGO/STAFF PHOTO Our Lady of Lourdes junior varsity basketball head coach Bill Gilger, second from left, watches his Red Raider players intently as they compete against Schuylkill Haven during first half action Thursday evening in Coal Township.

CHRIS J. GREGO/STAFF PHOTO Our Lady of Lourdes junior varsity basketball head coach Bill Gilger, second from left, watches his Red Raider players intently as they compete against Schuylkill Haven during first half action Thursday evening in Coal Township.

guidance counselor, physical education, health, religion and business management teacher. He also has served as dean of students and moderator and adviser for multiple clubs, committees and programs.

Bill and “Gish” are the last of the “old guard” of coaches at Lourdes.

Bill, our younger sister, Lisa, and I were raised by two great parents. But as brothers growing up, Bill and I were as different as night and day. We always rooted for different teams and rarely played on the same team because we wanted to compete against each other. We had many fights, especially during our street hockey games, but we always respected each other.

He was the calm one and I was the feisty little brother who always instigated our battles.

Bill, who is known to some as “Flex” for his love of weightlifting and professional wrestling, is very modest. He never wants credit for anything. Well, big brother, you deserve some accolades. I know you’ll get me back for writing this column, but I’ll take my chances.

I’m grateful to have a big brother to look up to and I’m very proud of his coaching and teaching accomplishments. The “quiet man” deserves his day in the spotlight even though I’m sure he would rather stay in the background.

That was very evident Thursday night when he was honored by the school for his outstanding coaching career. He wanted no fanfare and administrators and the coaching staff had to keep his

CHRIS J. GREGO/STAFF PHOTO Longtime Lourdes junior varsity head basketball coach and varsity assistant Bill Gilger stands among a sea of red and white during a halftime ceremony in his honor. Gilger has announced his retirement at the end of this season after 38 years of coaching.

CHRIS J. GREGO/STAFF PHOTO Longtime Lourdes junior varsity head basketball coach and varsity assistant Bill Gilger stands among a sea of red and white during a halftime ceremony in his honor. Gilger has announced his retirement at the end of this season after 38 years of coaching.

special recognition and plaque presentation by coach Sandri a surprise, knowing he would oppose it.

Bill is so humble that he politely declined an interview by The News-Item after the the varsity game, Senior Night and homecoming festivities that also included special recognition given to former longtime Lourdes basketball manager Shelly Koutch.

Big brother twice received a standing ovation from the large crowd including Schuylkill Haven fans, players and coaches.

During his brief remarks, he stayed true to his character by saying he didn’t want to take anything away from Senior Night and homecoming activities. He thanked all his players and fellow coaches, teachers and administrators through the years and said retiring from coaching was a difficult decision, but the right one at this stage of his life.

Bill and his wife, JoAnne, who is a longtime guidance counselor at Lourdes, have two children, Taryn (Gilger) Zayas, a school teacher in Philadelphia, and John Gilger, a physical education teacher at Lourdes. They also have one grandson, Jayden, who was born in December.

On behalf of the Gilger family, I’d like to thank the administration at Lourdes, coaches Klembara, Sandri, Reiprish and Craig Reichard, radio announcer, sports historian and former longtime Lourdes coach and teacher Tom Ryan who offered very flattering remarks about my brother’s career, coach McKay and all of Bill’s former players who were in attendance. It’s a night he will always cherish.

Congratulations big brother! Our family and the Lourdes family are very proud of you.