MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – Coach Kevin Gamble has found himself back on the bench, this time not as a player under the likes of Dr. Tom Davis or the famous Pat Riley, nor as a head coach leading his hometown school’s inaugural program, but as an assistant at the Division I level for the first time.
Gamble comes to Central Michigan after spending the 2010-11 season as the coordinator of player development and video operations for the Providence Friars under the direction of Keno Davis.
Gamble is no stranger to the stresses and triumphs that coaching collegiate basketball brings. In his hometown of Springfield, Ill., Gamble was hired as the first-ever head coach of the University of Illinois-Springfield Prairie Stars.
“When I was approached to coach the Illinois-Springfield basketball team, I jumped at the opportunity,” said Gamble. “I was able to make some mistakes along the way, never having any head coaching experience at the college level. I grew into the position and had some bumps in the road and had some successes, and was able to build a pretty good program before I left.”
Gamble spent eight years with U of I-Springfield, and led them to back-to-back American Midwest Conference championships in 2005-06 and 2006-07. Over his eight-year stint with the Prairie Stars, Gamble compiled a record of 130-79, and was awarded the AMC Coach of the Year twice.
Gamble backs up his coaching prowess with 10 seasons of playing experience in the NBA. He was drafted by the Portland Trailblazers in the third round of the 1987 NBA draft. After spending a short time in Portland, Gamble was picked up by the Boston Celtics, where he remained through the 1994 season.
“Boston was my favorite team to play for,” Gamble said. “The old Garden was my favorite place to play; they had some of the softest rims in the NBA.”
While with the Celtics, Gamble played with the likes of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish. In the 1990-91 season, under the guidance of Head Coach Chris Ford, Gamble averaged 15.6 points per game and shot 58.7 percent from the floor, third best in the NBA. He finished second to Scott Skiles of the Orlando Magic for the Most Improved Award that season.
Gamble averaged 9.5 points per game throughout his NBA career, and appeared in a total of 649 games for the Trailblazers, Celtics, Heat, and Kings.
Gamble attributes much of his professional success to his college coach at the University of Iowa, Dr. Tom Davis.
“Dr. Tom is probably the reason I played in the NBA,” said Gamble. “My junior year I did not play much at all, I averaged I think six minutes per game playing out of position under George Raveling.”
Gamble came to Iowa after playing two seasons at Lincoln Junior College, where he was a First Team All-American and averaged over 20 points per game. After earning a starting spot his senior year for Davis, Gamble helped Iowa reach the number one ranking in the country, and a run to the elite eight in the1986-87 NCAA Tournament.
“The NCAA Tournament, we didn’t know what to expect. It was our first year together and it was Coach Davis’ first year, so everyone was a little bit nervous,” Gamble said. “You have very little time to work on things, but that run to the elite eight, one game from the final four, then getting beat by UNLV, it was a lot of fun.”
Gamble was a standout during the1987 tournament for Davis and the Hawkeyes. He shot 78 percent, 25 percent higher than his career average, from the field, making 32 of 41 shots, including a game winning three-pointer in overtime to advance Iowa over Oklahoma in the sweet 16.
Gamble has taken bits and pieces from his experiences playing on a variety of levels to create his coaching philosophy.
“I like the style we played at Iowa. When I was a coach at Illinois [Springfield], that was pretty much the style we ran,” said Gamble. “Of course you modify it a little bit to your taste, but I’ve taken things from Pat Riley and Chris Ford and what I will try to teach our players is that I didn’t invent this stuff, this is stuff that has worked with Pat Riley, who has five NBA championships as a coach, for Chris Ford, for Dr. Tom [Davis], who is the winningest coach in Iowa history.”
Gamble’s addition to the coaching staff has been a great benefit for both the veterans and youth of the Chippewas.
“He [Gamble] lets you know things on the side, things that you can do better and things to look for that certain coaches on other staffs may not be able to see,” said senior guard Kyle Randall. “He has played at the highest level, so everything he tells me I take in and soak it up like a sponge.”
Aside from his playing experience and knowledge as a coach, Gamble has been good with keeping the game fun.
“We like to ask him questions because he knows what it is like. He definitely has some good stories and we have seen a few videos here and there from when he was back in college,” said freshman forward John Simons.
One video that has become popular among the players is a rap music video titled “Shirts and Skins” done by the 1986-87 Iowa Hawkeyes.