Regarded as one of the top volleyball minds in the country, Brian Gimmillaro is set to enter his 27th season at Long Beach State over the 2011 season. The Long Beach State graduate has continually taken the 49ers to new heights as one of the winningest and most successful volleyball programs over the past two decades. His dedication to the sport and his student-athletes was recognized most recently in December 2008, when Gimmillaro was part of the three-person class inducted into the AVCA Hall of Fame, honoring individuals who have greatly contributed to the game of volleyball.
Because of Gimmillaro, Long Beach State has earned a place among the nation’s elite. With three National Championships, eight Final Fours, 13 NCAA Regionals and 25 NCAA Tournament appearances to his credit, it is no wonder that Long Beach State enters every season as a national contender. Over the past 15 seasons, LBSU has won a national title, has appeared in four Final Fours and six NCAA Regionals. Over that time, the team record is an impressive 411-83, winning over 80 percent of their matches. With a 3-0 win over UC Irvine in 2010, Gimmillaro became just the eighth active coach to reach 700 Division I wins and the 10th all-time to reach 700 wins all coming at Division I. Gimmillaro ranks 17th in all-time victories, and his 703-171 all-time record stands as the No. 8 career winning percentage in Division I.
Against one of the toughest conferences in the country, the Big West, LBSU has won 78 percent (343-99) of their matches, including ten conference crowns. In 19 of the last 20 seasons, Gimmillaro’s teams have won at least 20 matches.
That streak continued last season in 2010, as the 49ers went 25-8 overall and reached the team’s 24th consecutive NCAA Tournament, matching just three other teams in the nation in a streak this long. The 49ers had five players honored with Big West honors, including three first-team selections in outside hitter Caitlin Ledoux, setter Ashley Lee, and middle blocker Haleigh Hampton. Ledoux was named an honorable mention All-American for the second straight year, while Hampton ranked third nationally in blocking. With another outstanding season, the 49ers have now recorded 1,073 all-time wins, fifth-most in NCAA history.
But wins alone do not define Long Beach State’s volleyball program. Former setter Keri Nishimoto was a two-time Academic All-American, following in the footsteps of another volleyball player, Anja Grabovac, who was an Academic All-American in 1999. Prior to the 2003 season, Gimmillaro was the sole recipient of the USA Volleyball All-Time Great Coach Award (in the Donald S. Shondell Contemporary Division). In receiving the award, Gimmillaro joined an elite group of volleyball coaches. Also in 2003, Gimmillaro was bestowed with the “Excellence in Leadership” award, presented by Leadership Long Beach. Gimmillaro is also a three-time National Coach of the Year, earning American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) National Coach of the Year honors in 1998 and ASICS Tiger National Coach of the Year accolades in 1989 and 1998. Also in 1999, Gimmillaro was the named the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Coach of the Year, the only non-Olympic coach such honored. In 1989, 1991, 1994 and 1997 Gimmillaro was named one of eight Regional Coaches of the Year. Gimmillaro has also earned Big West Coach of the Year honors seven times (2005, 2001, 1998, 1997, 1994, 1992 and 1991).
Gimmillaro’s players are a testament to his program. In January of 2001, the NCAA released its 20th Anniversary team. Of the six players chosen, three were Gimmillaro’s former players. Those three players serve as a who’s who of women’s volleyball. All three were Olympians in Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004, all three were National Players of the Year and all three led the 49ers to a National Title. Gimmillaro has coached six AVCA National Players of the Year. Cross-Battle and May have each won the award twice, while Scott and Antoinette White each earned the honor one time. Cross-Battle is a former player-coach for the National team, a four-time Olympian and a two-time World Player of the Year. Danielle Scott-Aruda is also a four-time Olympian, only two players to have that honor in USA women’s indoor volleyball history. Finally, Misty May-Treanor is regarded as the top beach volleyball player in the world.
Long Beach State continues to have a tradition of Olympic success from Gimmillaro’s players. In 2004, LBSU boasted the most players from any college on the Summer Olympic squad -- Cross-Battle, Scott-Aruda, and Tayyiba Haneef-Park. In 2000, Cross-Battle became the first athlete in USA Volleyball history (male or female) to be named to all four Olympic teams. In 2008, Scott-Aruda also made her fourth Olympic team, and Haneef-Park made her second, one year after being named the USA International Player of the Year. The pair would combine to lead the Americans to the Silver Medal in Beijing, the highest finish for the USA in women’s indoor volleyball since 1984. Additionally, May-Treanor, along with her partner Keri Walsh, won her second Gold Medal in Beach Volleyball, defending the championship she first won in Athens.
Gimmillaro’s finest season came in 1998, when the 49ers became the first NCAA Division-I volleyball team ever to finish the season undefeated. The Beach captured their third National title in Madison, Wisconsin, finishing 36-0. The team also won National titles in 1993 and 1989. In 1989, it was the first Division-I Championship for Long Beach State in any sport. The Beach has reached eight NCAA Final Fours, participating in 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2001. Twice over the past decade the team has reached three consecutive Final Fours, winning a National title during each of those runs. Twice the team has run the table during the regular season, during the NCAA Championship year of 1998 and in 2001.
What may be most impressive about the team’s incredible run is how far it has come. When Gimmillaro started in 1985, he took over a team that had struggled in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, and had not won a National title since 1972 and 1973. The team played in the Gold Mine, a small gymnasium in the middle of campus, which the team rarely filled. Today, the team is one of the nation’s best, plays before large crowds at the Walter Pyramid, and continues to develop some of the best volleyball players in the country.
Before coming back to his alma mater, Gimmillaro coached at perennial volleyball powerhouse Gahr High School in Cerritos, Calif. (1978-1985). During his tenure, he led his team to four CIF-Southern Section Championships (1978, 1979, 1983 and 1984) and Division-I State Championships in 1983 and 1984. In 1984 and 1985, Gahr won the CIF Southern Section 5-A Division Championship and was a Division-I state finalist. In eight years, Gimmillaro compiled a stellar 142-15 (.905) record. All told, Gimmillaro sent eight consecutive teams to the CIF Playoffs. A national No. 1 ranking in 1984 was a testament to his success at Gahr.
During the same period, Gimmillaro served as the business manager for the United States Women’s Volleyball Olympic Team (1982-84). His duties included organization and development of publicity, budget, fund-raising and promotion. He has also been the president and owner of the California Juniors Volleyball Club since 1978.
A voting member of the AVCA Top 25 Poll, Gimmillaro is a four-time Century Club Coach Award Winner, and in 1992, the Century Club bestowed on Gimmillaro its Michael Brian Warren award for outstanding contribution to furthering the goals of women’s athletics.
Gimmillaro graduated from Long Beach State in 1970 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics. Gimmillaro and his wife, Dania, reside in Long Beach with their son, Stefan, and daughter, Lauren.