Citing a desire “to go in a different direction,” Leonard Manley, athletic director at East St. Louis High School, confirmed Monday that Flyers basketball coach Phillip Gilbert has been relieved of his duties after two years at the helm.
“First of all, let me say that I felt that Phillip did a wonderful job. I think that he will be a wonderful coach one day. I had the utmost respect for him before he became head coach, and I have even more respect for him now,” Manley said. “We just want to go a different direction. We thank him for the job that he did and hope that he learned a lot from us. We learned a lot from him.”
Gilbert was a 2000 graduate of East St. Louis and is currently eighth on the all-time scoring list at Bradley University. He became the Flyers’ 10th head coach in school history when he took over the coaching duties from Tony Young in April 2015.
Gilbert said coaching at his old school was a dream come true.
“I would like to thank East St. Louis Senior High for the opportunity of serving as head boys basketball coach for these two season,” Gilbert said. “The student-athletes learned the importance or tradition, pride, hard work, perseverance and teamwork. Giving back to the city that I grew up in and represented the orange and blue personally was a dream come true for me.”
Gilbert guided East St. Louis to a record of 14-14 record in the 2015-16 season. This past season, spurred by the the return of 6-foot-11 All-American center and University of Illinois recruit Jeremiah Tilmon from prep school, the Flyers finished 18-8, losing to Belleville West 67-60 in the title game of the Class 4A Belleville East Regional.
East St. Louis was of 32-22 in Gilbert’s two years as coach.
Manley said that the decision to release Gilbert was not an easy one.
“I think anyone associated with Phillip on an adult level respects his professionalism and his knowledge of the game of basketball,” Manley said. “He’s a first-class individual. We wish him well.”
Manley said applications for the job are being taken and that the interview process will begin soon.