Ghiloni announces retirement as Denison men’s basketball coach; Sullivan promoted to head coach

After 18 years leading the Denison University men’s basketball team, Bob Ghiloni announced his retirement as the program’s head coach.  Ghiloni will maintain his faculty status as a professor in the department of health, exercise and sport studies at Denison.  Associate head coach Chris Sullivan has been promoted to head coach of the men’s basketball program.

Having the chance to coach basketball at Denison University has been a tremendous opportunity,” Ghiloni said.  “If someone had told me 30, 40 or 50 years ago that I was going to be a head college basketball coach for 18 years I would have told them they were crazy.  My life has been impacted by this university, my colleagues, but most of all by the men I have had the privilege to coach and work with.  I am grateful for all the ups and downs, the wins and the losses, and the competition that makes college basketball special.” 

Ghiloni leaves his post ranked third in career victories at Denison with 190.  Only Walter Livingston (25 seasons, 226 wins) and Dick Scott (21 seasons, 199 wins), have won more games than Ghiloni did in Granville.  His teams have advanced to the North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament 15 times and have made five NCAC Tournament semifinal appearances.

In 2016, Denison enjoyed a breakthrough campaign, winning the NCAC Tournament as a No. 4 seed with victories over Wittenberg, Ohio Wesleyan, and Wooster to advance to the NCAA Division III Tournament for the second time in school history.  In 2016-17, Denison went on to set a new single-season record for victories with 22.  They earned their first-ever top-10 national ranking that season, rising as high as No. 9 in the national polls.  Jett Speelman was named to the Great Lakes All-Region team and David Meurer joined Speelman on the All-NCAC first team.

From 2015-18 Ghiloni and the Big Red won 60 percent of its games and advanced to three-straight NCAC Tournament Final Fours.  Denison’s first NCAC Tournament Championship game appearance occurred in 2012. That season, the Big Red entered the postseason as the No. 5 seed and earned road wins over Wabash and top-seeded Wittenberg before falling to Wooster, 53-51 in the NCAC title game.

Ghiloni was named the NCAC Coach of the Year in 2005 and in 2017 he was the recipient of the first-ever Bonar Family Mentorship and Teaching Excellence Award which is presented annually to one Denison faculty member.  Ghiloni’s coaching has transcended the court. He has placed an emphasis on fostering holistic growth while encouraging servant leadership in all facets of his player’s lives. 

One of the cornerstones of Denison men’s basketball has been community service, specifically the program’s alignment with the West Licking Warriors Special Olympics team.  Through the years, Denison men’s basketball players have coached and mentored West Licking Warriors teams and athletes.  The support has been returned by the West Licking Warriors with overwhelming backing of the Big Red men’s basketball team.  The black and gold colors worn by the Warriors’ teams have been a fixture at Denison games throughout Ghiloni’s 18-year run.

“I am so grateful for the leadership Bob Ghiloni has provided Denison, in all of his roles”, said Denison Vice President and Director of Athletics Nan Carney-DeBord.  “Coach Ghiloni is one of the finest teachers of the game, a brilliant strategist, and a fierce competitor. However, his greatest qualities are as a life mentor and team builder. His highly developed leadership prowess is second to none. Bob has not only been exceptional on the court but throughout the entire Denison Community.  His character and integrity are recognized by his peers. He has been integral in the building of our positive department culture. He displays the many facets of our core value, Competitive Excellence whether he is on the court, in the classroom or in the many service activities in which his team participates. In my observation, those who have played for Coach Ghiloni are better students, athletes, and more prepared to change the world as a result of their experience. The positive team culture of the program is an exceptional foundation for his legacy to be continued.”

Ghiloni came to Denison in 2002 after 15 successful seasons at Bishop Ready High School in Columbus, Ohio.  In his final season at Ready, Ghiloni’s Silver Knights team went 23-5 and advanced to the state tournament championship finals in Division III.  Prior to coaching at Ready, Ghiloni spent three seasons as an assistant coach at Capital University in addition to stops at Ohio Dominican and St. Francis DeSales.

Sullivan becomes Denison’s 21st head men’s basketball coach in the 121-year history of the program.  He recently completed his ninth season as an assistant coach and his fourth year as associate head coach.  In 2017, Sullivan was named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches Under Armour 30 under 30 list highlighting the top men’s basketball coaches in the nation under the age of 30.

Since his arrival in the 2011-12 season, Sullivan has been a part of five NCAC Tournament Final Four teams and 120 wins over that span.  He has coached two all-region players in Dimonde Hale and Jett Speelman.  Sullivan accepted the lead assistant coaching position at Denison after a stellar career at Wittenberg University.  He was named to the All-American team in 2011 where he set the program and conference record for 3-pointers made in a season (120).  He is one of 20 All-Americans produced by Wittenberg. He scored 1,090 points in his collegiate career and is Wittenberg’s career leader in 3-pointers made (241).

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