Regarded as one of the top volleyball minds in the country, Brian Gimmillaro finished his 30th season at Long Beach State in 2014. The Long Beach State graduate has continually taken the 49ers to new heights as one of the most winning and successful volleyball programs over the past three 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 27 NCAA Tournament appearances to his credit, it is no wonder that Long Beach State enters every season as a national contender. Over the past 17 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 437-115, winning nearly 80 percent of its 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 14th in all-time victories in Division I history, and his 789-205 all-time record stands as the No. 9 career winning percentage in Division I among active coaches. With 18 wins in 2013, he jumped into the top-25 for career victories among all coaches in all divisions in NCAA history.
Against one of the toughest conferences in the country, the Big West, LBSU has won 78 percent (381-111) of its matches, winning 13 conference crowns. In 19 of the last 22 seasons, Gimmillaro’s teams have won at least 20 matches.
In 2014, Gimmillaro led the Beach back into the NCAA postseason and a first round win over San Diego. Gimmillaro’s 49ers posted a perfect 16-0 record in the Big West in 2014, becoming the fifth Long Beach State squad to accomplish the feat and 10th team in Big West history. Gimmillaro notched his ninth Big West Coach of the Year award while setter Jenelle Hudson garnered Big West Player of the Year honors and middle blocker Ashley Murray won Freshman of the Year honors. The trio led the Beach on a17-match win streak and a national ranking as high as No. 15. Seniors Chisom Okpala and Bre Mackie each earned All-America Honorable Mention with Mackie being the 25th 49er to earn the distinction.
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 eight times (2012, 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: Tara Cross-Battle, Danielle Scott-Arruda, and Misty May-Treanor. 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. Scott-Arruda was named to a record fifth Olympic squad in 2012, the only player to have that honor in USA women’s indoor volleyball history, passing Cross-Battle who represented Team USA four times. Finally, 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 2012, three former 49ers claimed Medals in London. May-Treanor capped an unprecedented run in Beach Volleyball with her partner Kerri Walsh, capturing a third straight Gold Medal after winning in 2008 in Beijing and 2004 in Athens. Also, in women’s volleyball, Scott-Arruda and Tayyiba Haneef-Park repeated as medalists after winning the Silver in Beijing, capturing another Silver Medal for the USA, in London. Those finishes followed the 2004 squad, where the 49ers had the most players from any college in Cross-Battle, Scott-Arruda, and Haneef-Park, as Cross-Battle was making her fourth Olympic appearance, setting a mark that was only passed in London by Scott-Arruda. In all, Gimmillaro’s players have represented the United States in volleyball in each of the last six Olympiads.
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, fundraising 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. He has two children: a son, Stefan, and daughter, Lauren.