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New D-I women’s basketball coach Adrienne Shibles no stranger to victories

  • Adrienne Shibles coaches Bowdoin's women's basketball team in Feb. 2016. Shibles has been chosen to lead Dartmouth's women's hoops team. (Bowdoin Athletics photograph)

  • Adrienne Shibles coaches Bowdoin's women's basketball team in the first round of the NCAA Women’s Division III Basketball Tournament in March 2011. Shibles has been chosen to lead Dartmouth's women's hoops team. (Bowdoin Athletics photograph)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/4/2021 10:32:21 PM
Modified: 5/4/2021 10:32:18 PM

HANOVER — Serving as Dartmouth women’s basketball head coach will present a lot of new challenges for Adrienne Shibles, whose hiring was announced on Monday. But the job also shares some similarities to what she’s already accomplished.

Shibles will join the Big Green after 13 years leading Bowdoin College women’s basketball. Though the Division III school in Maine is not an Ivy League institution like Dartmouth, Bowdoin athletics operates in a similar academics-first manner. Shibles was recruiting similar profiles of athletes to Brunswick, Maine, as she will to Hanover.

She thought that was one of several reasons Dartmouth administrators saw her resume as a good fit for the program.

“I think a lot of people would look at it as a challenge to recruit that high-academic kid to Dartmouth, but I see it as a real opportunity,” Shibles said in a phone interview on Tuesday from Maine. “These are high-achieving, phenomenal citizens — not just students, but citizens. I worked at Swarthmore before Bowdoin, and so this is not going to be anything new for me.”

The Hanover area was one attraction for Shibles to the Dartmouth job, as she said hiking and connecting with nature are important to her and her family. But the challenges of jumping to Division I for the first time, as well as coaching at Dartmouth specifically, also appealed to Shibles. That leap is a big deal for her, and she’s prepared for the learning curve it will entail.

“(Hanover) just seems to me it’s a community a lot like Brunswick that just has that warm, welcoming feel,” Shibles said. “But the challenge to rebuild the program is something that really excites me. When I took over Bowdoin, it was already pretty established — and that was a challenge in of itself to take over a program like that. But this is a different kind of challenge, and I’m excited for it.”

She carries a successful track record with her in this move up. Shibles is the winningest coach in Bowdoin history with a 281-67 record. In her final three seasons, the Polar Bears went 87-7, and she led the team to back-to-back championship game appearances in 2018 and 2019, the last seasons with NCAA Division III Tournaments.

Shibles, 51, graduated from Bates in 1991 and was a two-time captain of the team there. She attributed her strong run at Bowdoin to recruiting top-echelon Division III talent, but also recruiting high-character players who fit into her culture and putting her players in positions to succeed on the court.

She describes her coaching style as empowering and collaborative. At Bowdoin, she said, she employed a shared leadership model — through team captains, a leadership council, and other processes — which allowed the players a lot of control of the program and the team.

“I love to work with the student-athletes, give them space to lead, give them a voice to lead, and teach them how to be coaches on the floor by enhancing their tactical knowledge,” Shibles said. “I (am) passionate about culture creation. I think laying the foundation for that culture immediately is going to be incredibly important, and building trust with the student-athletes will be essential.”

Members of Dartmouth’s team had a role in the hiring process. During the second round of interviews, Shibles and other finalists met with the team on Zoom to share their vision and answer some questions.

Juniors Katie Douglas and Veronica Kelly came away from those meetings favoring Shibles as the top candidate. Both were elated when Dartmouth Interim Director of Athletics and Recreation Peter Roby shared the news with the players Sunday.

“I wanted someone that comes from a winning program, and knows what a winning culture is like,” Douglas said. “I wanted someone who can develop us off the court as leaders and people, rather than just basketball players. I wanted someone to build a relationship with, and I wanted someone to be direct and honest with us. And I think Adrienne has all those characteristics.”

That Zoom call wasn’t Kelly’s first exposure to her new head coach — Shibles tried to recruit Kelly, along with a few of her Dartmouth teammates, to Bowdoin in high school.

Kelly said she’s excited for her new coach to be someone she already knew, and that Shibles is a great person. She added that Shibles’ recognition of the student-athletes that fit her culture makes her a successful coach and recruiter.

“She knows the type of players that would like be attracted to a school like Dartmouth or a school like Bowdoin, a high academic and high-level basketball school balanced,” Kelly said. “We’re in kind of a niche situation because we don’t give athletic scholarships, so it’s a little different here. And I think she understands that, which will really be beneficial for recruiting.”

Dartmouth women’s basketball, once one of the school’s more consistently successful programs with 17 Ivy League titles, is in a drought. The Big Green haven’t won an Ivy League title since 2008-09, and since then have finished with a winning record just once.

While Shibles believes she can lead the Big Green back to winning consistently and making NCAA Tournaments, she’s not as worried about that in the short-term. Her biggest goal for the first year is laying the groundwork for her vision of a successful program.

“We’re going to be focused on the process. I’m a very process-oriented coach,” Shibles said. “And so the goal for me every day is going to be to grow our team culture and to try to enhance their play when I have the opportunity to work with them on the court, and get 1% better every day.”

Seth Tow can be contacted at stow@vnews.com.




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