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Aggie Basketball Gets A Facelift

Courtesy: NC A&T Sports Information
          Release: 02/27/2012
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Coach Patricia Cage-Bibbs won three straight MEAC regular-season championships as Aggies head coach. Photo by Charles E. Watkins
Courtesy: NC A&T Sports Information
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Goodbye Grambling

Like LC would do, Bibbs throws herself back into her work. After winning the SWAC tournament twice without the benefit of the NCAA's automatic bid into the tournament, the SWAC finally receives the automatic bid in 1994. Bibbs and the Lady Tigers take advantage.

They post a 23-7 record overall and an 11-3 mark in the SWAC. In the NCAA tournament, they nearly upset No. 2 ranked Vanderbilt (92-82). Bibbs wins six conference tournaments at Grambling.

"I always want to play the best. I always want to compete against the best," said Bibbs. "I tell my (assistant) coaches, I don't care if Tennessee or a major school is recruiting a young lady. If we have a chance to get her, let's go get her."

Dr. Dennis Thomas decides to do just that in 1997. Dr. Thomas, the current MEAC Commissioner, is the director of athletics at Hampton in the mid 90's. Hampton athletics is making the move from Division II to Division I and needs a coach to complement the move. 

"I'm looking for a basketball coach. Do you know of anyone?" said Thomas, during a phone conversation with Bibbs in '97. Thomas knew of Ezil because he played against his Grambling teams when he was at Alcorn State.

"I don't know of anyone," Bibbs replies.

"I do," Thomas shoots back, knowing the conversation is going exactly as planned. "It's Pat Bibbs."

Bibbs is being asked to leave home, literally, to move east to a place and a staff that is unfamiliar to her. Despite pleas from coach Eddie Robinson and other friends, Bibbs decides to take the interview.

Thomas pulls out all the stops. He shows the country girl from Louisiana all the beautiful waters and fishing sites that surround the Tidewater area. She speaks to Dr. William Harvey over the phone.

"I normally don't hire people without meeting them face-to-face," Bibbs recalls him saying. "But there is something about you. I want you at Hampton."

Dr. Harvey has some of the same ambitions Dr. Johnson had 13 years earlier. He doesn't want Hampton to be Division I in name only; he wants the Pirates to play the part.

"It was time for a change," said Ezil. "Hampton was a new challenge for her, a new adventure and I think she just wanted it."

Bibbs is an instant hit at Hampton. By the end of season one, the Pirates were 22-7 overall and 16-2 in the MEAC. The next season, she wins another regular-season title, the first as a coach in the MEAC. By 2000, she replaces Howard as the dominant program in the conference by winning the MEAC tournament and earning the conference's automatic bid.

Bibbs is Bibbs at Hampton. She dresses nicely and beats everyone in sight.

"I really didn't know her that well," said Bibbs' Hampton secretary. "But I was always impressed at how well she dressed and how she coach a whole basketball game in those heels."

Aggie Pride

She wins two more tournament titles with Hampton before retiring after winning the 2004 MEAC Tournament.  After 371 wins, nine conference tournament titles, nine regular-season titles and eight conference coach of the year honors, it was finally over. Maybe.

"She wasn't ready to retire," said Ezil. "When you've done something as long as she has done it, sometimes it drains you. But she still had a lot to offer a program. My daughter and I saw that."

Bibbs has plenty to keep her busy. The Bibbses were embarking on a new car rental business, and she still had a 16-year old daughter at home. But watching games on television takes on a whole new meaning for the Bibbses. Ezil and Satin Bibbs watch as mom gets just as animated on the couch as she would on a bench in an arena.

Plus, Ezil and Satin miss rooting for mom. "Why don't you go back," said Ezil asks. "We miss you being there."

But Pat Bibbs has never had to ask for a coaching position. All the principals and presidents came to her. How could she go about selecting the right opportunity?

 "She has a tenacity like no one I have ever seen," said Dr. Venice Cage Mouton, Bibbs' sister-in-law of more than 30 years. Mouton is also Bibbs' spiritual advisor and minister.

"She spends most of her time wondering how she can make things better," Mouton continued. "Even when we are having a good time and letting our hair down, the conversation always stems back to her work. No one is going to stop her from getting to where she wants to go.

"The thing that is so amazing about her, is her willingness to reach out and bring others along with her. She is a good person. She wants to help mentor young coaches. But they better be able to keep up because she expects the best and she is not going to sugarcoat it for you."

Another opportunity to help others does come Bibbs' way.  Another university leader is about to pick up the phone. It is Dr. Renick. Like Dr. Johnson and Dr. Thomas, Dr. Renick wants to change the impression of his women's basketball program. The longsuffering Aggies had not won a MEAC title since 1994 and by 2005, they were stumbling badly.

"The one thing I always remembered about coming to A&T was the passionate fan base," said Bibbs. "But when you come to a school on a bus, all you really see is the arena. When Dr. Renick showed me the campus, I was sold. The campus was gorgeous."

Bibbs decides to put on her best stilettos, another fashionable dress and her exquisite jewelry, and walk into the room that day. Although no director of athletics is named on March 16, 2005, in 2012, no one is complaining.

A lot of hard work goes into having the privilege to wear her and walk in her impeccable shoes. The country girl from Treemont Bottom, by way of Cage Hill, hasn't done too badly for herself. She has five hundred wins and counting.   

 "When Pat Bibbs comes home you would never know she is somebody sitting in the cat bird's seat," said Williams, who won MVP honors in Super Bowl XXII. "Pat Bibbs is as country as they come. She'll take a fishing line and throw it in the water in a heartbeat. Have a fish fry or say you are cooking some craw fish and see what you get out of coach Bibbs. One minute you can see her sitting on the back porch eating cat fish, and next she has on heels and is dressed to a T, coaching a game. She knows how to be who she needs to be when she has to."

On that faithful day in March of 2005, A&T needs someone to elevate the women's basketball program - not an AD.    

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