By Kandace Watkins
As Patricia Cage-Bibbs finishes her seventh season as the commander of the North Carolina A&T women's basketball team, the exciting storyline throughout the 2011-12 season was her pursuit of 500 career wins. This impressive milestone not only speaks to Bibbs' talent and longevity as a coach, but it also speaks to her work as a legendary mentor and leader.
"Coach Bibbs always wanted to win and defeat never sat well with her no matter who our competition was. She was a pure winner," said LaChandra Leday, who played under Bibbs at Grambling State from 1984-88. "She taught us how to be professional and lady-like, but when it was time to hit the court it was business. Her stern discipline tactics and commitment to education were key for our success as a team.
She provided a lot of positive reinforcement, which made being a student-athlete a lot easier for me. To know that I was a part of her 500 wins is very special to me," Leday added.
"Coach Bibbs had this commitment to really elevating Grambling State University at that time," said Elsie Dillard-Gonzalez, who played under Bibbs from 1986-90 at Grambling. "We were not the best team, but she had this uncanny ability to bring out the best in each of us. She made us feel like we were larger than life and winning became just what we did."
"When I left home I was just scared little tom-boy with not a lot of life experience. But after coming to Grambling and playing for coach, I grew a lot. What I appreciated the most was the opportunity to travel everywhere," Dillard-Gonzalez continued. "Coach Bibbs had this thing about her, when we would go anywhere we had to look good. I felt like I was professional with coach Bibbs, she introduced us to the finer things. She made us feel like we were worthy of the best."
Coach Bibbs not only prepared her team for victory on the court, she prepared them for success in their daily lives. Bibbs' winning mentality translated off the court, as she encouraged her team to reach their full potential.
Bibbs] was invested in my future and my education. Because of her commitment to
me and my success, I found myself on the All-Academic team and the national
Dean's List. "I wonthe
SWAC Academic Award and graduated cum laude," said Dillard-Gonzalez. "My
success as a lieutenant can
be attributed to the lessons I learned from coach. Being a woman in a male-
"She is one of the most committed coaches I have ever met and she is unwilling to settle. She ate, drank and slept winning. Although she would fuss and fight and was constantly losing her voice, she saw potential in us that we didn't see in ourselves," added Dillard-Gonzelaz. "She would have us crying and cussing, but we played our hearts out for her."
As Bibbs entered her last season as head coach at Grambling State University, her no-nonsense attitude toward winning became an undeniable characteristic that she infused in her team.
"Coach Bibbs instilled in us an unwavering sense of determination and the will to win. She taught us to be fierce competitors and always approach the game like a business," said Shiakiea Carter, who played guard under Bibbs at Grambling State from 1994-1997. "She had a 'go hard or go home' attitude. When we stepped in the gym it was all about business, we came to work and win. The lessons she taught us transcended the game of basketball," Carter added.
carried the spirit of excellence she established at Grambling to Hampton
University when she took over the head coaching position for the Pirates in
1997. Bibbs hit the ground running in her first season as head coach, as she
led her team to the 1997-98 MEAC regular-
"She had a winner's mentality. She pushed her players to be the best they could be," said Danielle Dawson, who played guard under Bibbs at Hampton from 1997-1999. "She is a very competitive coach and she encourages her team to play with the same passion and fire," added Dawson, who is the current assistant women's basketball coach at Delaware State.
At Hampton, Bibbs did more than build a conference power-house, she built self-esteem and confidence in her players.
"Coach Bibbs was a role model for me on and off the court," said Lynetta Sullivan, who played guard under Bibbs at Hampton. "She became my mother away from home. Coming from the inner-city in New York, there were a lot of things I did not know. She taught me about maturity and determination. She assured me that it is okay to fail, but to not claim your failure. I can honestly say I would not be the person I am today if it was not for Coach Bibbs."
as coach Bibbs instilled the values of hard work, dedication and success in her
previous teams, she has generated the same spirit during her time at A&T .
Her career as an Aggie includes three MEAC regular-
"The main thing I remembered and liked about Coach Bibbs is that she enforced the thought process of having a tradition," said Amber Bland, who played guard under Bibbs from 2006-09, and is currently the Aggies third all-time leading scorer and all-time leader in 3-pointers made.
Bland, who won two MEAC regular-season and one tournament title under Bibbs, continued: "She makes you want to play for the name on the jersey. It made winning so much better because we were doing it for something so much bigger than ourselves. We were doing for the team. You were doing it for the university. She believed in that. She made sure you represented A&T to the fullest."
Bibbs has had the ability to build a strong rapport with her team and peers alike. As undeniable as her success has been as a basketball coach, it is equally undeniable that Bibbs has been a positive influence on the women she has coached throughout her career. As a coach, she will be remembered and respected by those who played under her for her success and accomplishments. But as an African-American woman she will be remembered and respected for making history and demonstrating strength and determination.
"I genuinely love Coach Bibbs, she is a role-model, kind-hearted and an all-around excellent person," said Sullivan. "She is an African-American female and there are not too many that have accomplished what she has accomplished as a head coach. Everywhere she has landed she has been successful and this is just another notch under her belt."