|Gettysburg athletics photo|
After raising the bar for not one, but two athletic programs at Gettysburg College, head women's basketball coach Mike Kirkpatrick announced his retirement from the coaching realm on Thursday, April 2.
Kirkpatrick announced his intention to retire to both his basketball team and colleagues in the Department of Athletics on Thursday, bringing an end to 26 years of outstanding success as head coach of the Bullets. For Kirkpatrick, his decision was based on spending time with and moving closer to a growing family.
"There were a lot of little factors," said Kirkpatrick, who joined Gettysburg as a part-time assistant coach with the men's program in 1986. "My wife is also retiring. We want to be closer to our families and our grandchildren. I just felt like it was the right thing to do right now."
Kirkpatrick leaves behind an unparalleled legacy at Gettysburg. He is the all-time leader in wins on the basketball court, logging a career mark of 379-271. Gettysburg only had five losing seasons under his guidance and the Bullets qualified for the Centennial Conference Tournament 12 times.
In 1994-95, Kirkpatrick led the Bullets to a 20-win season and the NCAA Tournament. Gettysburg marched to a school-record 24 wins and the Sweet 16 of the Division III NCAA Tournament in 2009-10. Three years later, Kirkpatrick led the Orange and Blue to 21 wins, its first Centennial Conference title, and another appearance on the national stage. Twice he has been named conference Coach of the Year and he has coached 41 all-conference selections and three All-Americans.
"Mike is steady. That's one of his great attributes," said athletic director David Wright. "That stability led to success in my mind. I think he got an awful lot from the young women who played for him. Not only that, it went beyond to the assistant coaches he mentored, both within his program for women's basketball but more globally within the athletic department at Gettysburg College."
Many of Kirkpatrick's former players and assistant coaches have become head coaches themselves, including 2014-15 Women's Basketball Coaches Association Regional Coach of the Year and Salisbury head coach Kelly Lewandowski and Virginia Commonwealth head coach Beth O'Boyle '98.
"He's so knowledgeable about the game and it amazes me," said assistant coach Lauren Healy, who is in her fourth season at Gettysburg. "The way that he breaks things down is outstanding because it's helpful for the girls to see that. He guides them and helps them throughout the process."
Kirkpatrick's success at Gettysburg goes beyond the confines of Bream Gym. From 1990 to 2007, he served as head coach of the softball program, guiding the team to three conference championships, two NCAA appearances, and a school-record 358 wins.
Between his basketball and softball resume at Gettysburg, Kirkpatrick has accounted for an amazing 737 victories, four conference titles, and five trips to the national playoffs.
After nearly three decades at Gettysburg, Kirkpatrick's response to what he enjoyed most about working at Gettysburg was simple.
"People," said Kirkpatrick. "On campus, the people are just good people. I think the level of professionalism in this department is extremely high. The respect coach to coach is extremely high. That's evident by how long people have stayed here."
Wright indicated a national search will begin for Kirkpatrick's replacement. The advertisement will be made public within the week.
"I feel as though our department is losing a great colleague and friend," said Wright. "But I'm also very happy for him to be able to have the time to spend with what's most important in life, which is his family. I'm happy for him, but sad for us because he's been a great colleague and friend for a long time."