KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Vince Gibson, who served as Doug Dickey’s defensive coordinator at Tennessee in the mid-1960s before beginning a lengthy head coaching career, died Tuesday at his home in Kenner, La. He was 78.
Gibson had been diagnosed a year ago with ALS, a form of progressive paralysis that is incurable and commonly referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s disease.”
“He was tremendously well-respected in all the places he coached and Tennessee certainly was one of them where he made a great contribution,” Dickey said. “He was a wonderful guy to have around, and I know all the Tennessee players who played for him had great respect for him.”
The Birmingham, Ala., native graduated in 1955 from Florida State University, where he lettered two seasons at offensive guard. He went straight into coaching, landing his first position as the lone assistant under Bobby Bowden at South Georgia College. Gibson and Bowden were from the same neighborhood in Birmingham.
Gibson returned to his alma mater as an assistant coach from 1959-63, during which time he helped Bowden join the staff as an assistant where Bowden eventually would become one of college football’s legendary coaches.
Dynamic, Emotional Coach
Dickey’s first head coaching job came at Tennessee in 1964 and he immediately hired Gibson as his defensive coordinator.
“Vince was one of the most dynamic football coaches we had and was instrumental in helping us get the Tennessee program turned around and headed in the right direction toward championship play,” Dickey said. “He was a terrific recruiter and was quite an emotional guy with the players and they loved him. He did a great job.”
The Vols turned a 4-5-1 showing that first year into records of 8-1-2 and 8-3 the next two seasons, finishing with wins at the Bluebonnet and Gator bowls, respectively.
Gibson left the Vols to become Kansas State’s head coach in 1967. The Wildcats improved from a 1-9 opening season to finish 6-5 in 1970 and tie for second in the Big Eight Conference at 5-2. It was Kansas State’s first winning season in 16 years and for his efforts, Gibson was named Big Eight Coach of the Year.
Dickey knew Gibson was head-coaching material.
“I recommended him for that job and I was very happy when he got it,” Dickey said. “It was a tough place to go to at that time, but Vince did a great job of getting them going again and he was very popular out there.
“I had the good fortune of being invited by (K-State AD) John Currie to go out there with Vince in 2010. We had a wonderful time, it was a great experience with Vince and I’m so happy I was able to do that. He was so well thought of out there.”
Gibson guided Kansas State for eight seasons, finishing with a 33-52 record, before taking the head position at Louisville in 1975. He was 25-29-2 in five years with the Cardinals, including a trip to the Independence Bowl in 1977.
His final collegiate head coaching stop was a three-year stint at Tulane. The Green Wave compiled a 17-17 record from 1980-82 under Gibson and lost to Arkansas in the 1980 Hall of Fame Classic.
Gibson returned to coaching for one season in 1992 with the Arena Football League’s New Orleans franchise.
Funeral arrangements were incomplete as of Tuesday.