Chicago State University Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Elliott Charles announced today the hiring of Samford University assistant men’s basketball coach Gerald Gillion as the new head coach of the Cougars men’s basketball team.
“Coach Gillion is a tremendously talented recruiter and mentor to students,” said Charles. “Gerald has proven that academic, career and leadership development and social engagement of student-athletes are at the center of his competitive approach. His track record of focus on the holistic development of student-athletes has benefitted the prospective student recruitment outcomes at all of his previous institutions.
“When we started this search, we were looking for a leader who embodies CSU’s strategic plan and athletic mission. Student-athlete first approach, personal investment and innovation were used to identify the next leader of our men’s basketball program. Coach Gillion rose to the top as his commitment to building relationships in the city of Chicago and in the most competitive basketball recruiting centers are a major part of his previous professional success.
“We anticipate that this hire will generate competitiveness and community interest in the success of our basketball program. We want to show prospective conferences that we can compete and win in #OurChampionshipEra. We welcome Gerald, LaToya and the entire Gillion family to the CSU community. We look forward to the 2021-22 season and engaging our community, basketball alumni, Cougar Pride members and fans as they return to the beautiful Jones Convocation Center.”
Gillion joins Chicago State after one season with the Samford Bulldogs where he was credited with recruiting Samford’s most talented class in program history. Prior to joining the Bulldogs, Gillion was as an assistant coach at Tennessee Tech (2017-19) where he helped lead the Golden Eagles to a 19-12 record in his first season in Cookeville (2017-18). He also had a hand in raising the team’s grade point average to an impressive 3.4 and in the team’s 100 percent graduation rate during his two seasons.
“Recruiting is the easy part,” said Gillion when asked about his secret to success. “Relationships are what make any team come together. I’ve been building basketball relationships all my life, so getting guys to play for someone they trust is everything.”
“Gerald Gillion is the leader that Chicago State University needs for the men’s basketball team to enter their championship era,” said President Zaldwaynaka Scott, Esq. “Gillion is committed to ensuring our Cougars stand out on the court and in the classroom.”
Gillion spent the 2019-20 academic year strengthening his grassroots relationships as program director of Team Breakdown, a top-10 ranked AAU team in the nation. Team Breakdown won back-to-back AAU national championships and its roster is populated with McDonald’s All-Americans, over one hundred former Breakdown players going on to play professionally while thousands went on to compete at the Division I level. Gillion has served as team trainer, coach and director of player development since 2008. Some of the players include Kenny Boynton, Brandon Knight, Tony Mitchel, Zabian Dowdell, Malik Fitts, Justin James, Dewan Hernandez, Anfernee Simons, Kai Jones, Matt Bewley and Ryan Bewley among others.
“I’d like to thank President Z. Scott and AD Elliott Charles for believing in my vision for Chicago State,” said Gillion. “Winning is about mentality and development. You have to believe you are going to win and work your butt off every day proving yourself right. Amateur athletes have the advantage of ignorance. They don’t know any limitations. If you give me five players who know no limits, I’ll give you championships every year!”
Chicago State is looking to shake things up in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), and Gillion’s relationships in grassroots basketball coupled with his reputation for training, and recruitment, are the key factors in CSU’s belief that they will see instant improvement. As a new head coach in the WAC, Gillion feels he can turn the program around immediately.
“We live in a digital age. Nobody has time to wait years for progress when everything around us changes so rapidly,” said Gillion. “I’m a winner. My staff and I will not accept mediocrity on any level. We need to win now, not next year. We don’t want to rebuild; we want to re-tool. The winning mentality is built to last.” Gillion also spent time as a special assistant to the head coach at South Florida (2014-17) where he was responsible for organizing recruiting activities with coaches, summer camps, planning travel needs, organizing student-manager responsibilities and overseeing the team’s academic progress.
He entered college coaching as director of basketball operations at Florida International (2013-14) where he supervised the team’s film exchange, provided coaching staff tech support and was responsible for overseeing the player’s academic progress.
Gillion began his coaching career as the head coach at Northeast High School (2008-13) where he transformed the boys program that only won 10 games in four years to a team that won over 20 games and a district championship in his first season as head coach. He also coached the girls program, leading a dramatic turnaround in that program as well.
Among the list of pro athletes Coach Gillion has developed over the years, the most recent standouts are the Bewley Twins, Matt and Ryan Bewley. As the first U.S. born athletes to sign pro contracts before exhausting high school eligibility, the twins are making headlines for their ability and unconventional decision. Gillion is credited with teaching, training, and coaching them as freshmen when they attended Northeast High School. Gillion earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Social Science from Florida State University in 2008.