Head Coach TJ Tibbs Takes on His Newest Challenge
By Eric Ransom
Coach Tibbs has known since birth that basketball was his calling.
TJ Tibbs, 29, a born and raised Staten Islander, has been named the new head basketball coach for the CSI Men’s Basketball team, an honor the alumnus Tibbs is tremendously proud of.
After Coach Tony Petosa stepped down, Tibbs got the news that he is next to lead the squad, just five years after being a player on the very same team.
Only seven people have been in Tibbs’ place before, and the return home for the CSI alum is a fresh start in a familiar surrounding.
Tibbs sits in his office every morning, overlooking a kid’s playground, a testament to when Tibbs began his basketball endeavor as a boy, some 20 years ago.
“I’ve been playing basketball since I was walking. I really started to realize that I loved basketball probably as early as the first grade,” said Tibbs, dressed in his NY Jayhawks shirt.
Even at an early age, and new to the sport, basketball to Tibbs became more than just recreation and staying active, but a passion taken very seriously.
Tibbs would cry after his team lost a game, even when the score wasn’t counted.
This is one of the early steps in his basketball journey that he remembers quite fondly.
Tibbs cites his parents as being his biggest influences, especially his father, who enrolled him in the Catholic Youth Organization basketball league, leading him to eventually play for the Saint Peter’s High School basketball team.
His love for the game only grew, until his freshman year in college at Monmouth University, where basketball became a much tougher reality.
Being a redshirt freshmen on a sub-par team, Tibbs never played in any games that season, and proceeded to transfer to CSI, worried if he would ever play basketball again.
Overcoming the low points of that year, Tibbs remained steadfast in his push to play his favorite sport, not letting failure block his path.
“That was the time… that I realized failure didn’t really detract me from playing, that I definitely wanted to do this,” he said.
Tibbs played from 2010 to 2012 for CSI, and became an assistant coach with the freshman boys’ basketball team at Curtis High School.
He also coached with Baruch University, and recently was head coach at the College of Mount Saint Vincent before stepping in here at his alma mater.
For Tibbs, fitting in is far from an issue at CSI, from the many greetings given by other student athletes and coaches passing through, to the required dancing in his office before leaving. Luckily, the dancing wasn’t required this time.
The messages Coach Tibbs relays to his team resonates with his players, and in quite a short amount of time, has his team believing in his tutelage.
“[Coach Tibbs wants us to] communicate together, always have each other’s backs, [and] pick each other up,” said Ray Savage, a senior guard.
Edin Bracic, another senior guard/forward, explained how Coach Tibbs wants his players to “be loud, have energy, and be tough.”
With this, the off court mentality is just as important to Tibbs, expressing to each individual player to “be a gentleman,” and to not be “just basketball players,” as answered by Savage.
Bracic mirrored this sentiment, saying that Coach Tibbs “wants us to be a community.”
Coach Tibbs looks to instill strong, trustworthy relationships with not only his players, but the CSI community alike.
He values “heavy practices”, allowing his players to grow together, preparing them as much as possible for the season ahead.
Tibbs shines as a positive, eager and fiery leader with a wonderful outlook for an institution he cares deeply for, excited for the season to begin.
He hopes to show that basketball and life can be synonymous, that the discipline, as well as the fun of playing the sport, can resonate in the lives of the young men he will lead on the court.
As for the future, Tibbs remains humble in his handling of what is to come.
“I don’t have goals. I always feel like no matter what the result is at the end that I underachieve. There’s always something to get better at. There hasn’t been one year that I’ve been involved in basketball where I felt like… I did everything thing I possibly could, and the time I feel that is when I should probably stop coaching.”