By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
The “Getting to Know” series is designed to help the community learn more about the coaches and administrators that are guiding today’s Portage County student-athletes to be tomorrow’s leaders.
Today, we get to know Garfield High School girls basketball and girls soccer head coach Aaron Gilbert, who is in his 16th season leading the girls basketball program and sixth season leading the girls soccer program.
Q: What schools did you attend growing up?
A: St. Mary’s Elementary (Norwalk) for grades 1-5; Eastern Elementary for grade 6; Lexington Junior High for grade 7; Malabar Middle School for grade 8; Mansfield Senior High School for grades 9 and 10; Tiffinal Columbian High School (Class of 1995) for grades 11 and 12.
Q: College and graduation year?
A: Bowling Green State University (Class of 1999) — degree in Elementary Education; Heidelberg University — Master’s degree in education.
Q: Current occupation?
A: Seventh grade Social Studies teacher at James A. Garfield Local Schools.
Q: What inspired you to be a coach?
A: My father was a high-school teacher and coach for 40 years. I always loved the high-school atmosphere around game days of any sport.
Q: What makes coaching at Garfield special to you?
A: The legacy we have been able to build over the 15-plus years I have been coaching here. We have built a tremendous program that is respected around the area and that is special to me.
Q: Who has been your biggest influence or mentor as a coach?
A: I have been blessed to have several mentor coaches throughout my life. My father, Steve Gilbert, who taught me to build a culture around the program and how to treat those around me in the program. Rick DeMoss, who gave me my first high-school coaching job and responsibilities in the game of basketball and molded me into a head-coaching role. Larry Kisabeth, who I looked to for how to coach the game on the girls side and further build a winning program. Each of these individuals have made me the coach and person that I am today.
Q: Funny story nobody would believe from your playing days?
A: When I was playing for my dad as a quarterback at Columbian, he benched me after three games, because I wasn’t getting the job done. Mind you, my first three starts of my high-school career were against Fremont Ross (Charles Woodson), Clyde (Tim Anderson and Chad Long) and Fostoria (Damon Moore). So when people would say my dad plays favorites, I remind them that he benched his own son so there is no way he played favorites. He played the people that did their jobs. Later, at the end of my senior year, our starting quarterback was knocked out, and I went in and played the last two games of the year at quarterback after moving to wide receiver that season. It all came full circle.
Q: Funny story nobody would believe from your coaching career?
A: My assistant coach, Andy Cardinal, when he was the head coach at Cardinal, tried to play a box-and-one on a player of mine at the time (CJ Carlisle). So I had CJ come stand next to me by the sidelines and just played 4v4 for a portion of the game. He still gets made about it to this day.
Q: Favorite TV show?
A: M*A*S*H and Cheers.
Q: Favorite movie?
Q: Favorite musical artist?
A: Billy Joel and Kenny Chesney.
Q: Favorite food/meal?
A: Pizza or Mexican.
Q: Best vacation?
A: Walt Disney World.
Q: Favorite motto or quote?
A: “Do your job.” — Bill Belichick; “We’re not going to talk about what we’re going to accomplish. We’re going to talk about how we’re going to do it.” — Nick Saban
Q: What is your coaching philosophy?
A: It is the coach’s job to put players in positions where they will experience success.
Q: What does it mean, to you, to be a G-Men student-athlete?
A: Being a G-Men is unique. There is only one other G-Men school in the state of Ohio.
Q: Favorite restaurant?
A: Taco Bell.
Q: Favorite teacher from high school?
A: Mr. Jim Kanable (government).
Q: Advice you would give the younger version of yourself?
A: Don’t waste opportunities when they are given to you.
Q: Favorite coach from your playing days?
A: Dr. Paul Kish (now an administrator in Lorain Clearview Schools); and, of course, my father is my favorite coach.
Q: Coaching resume?
A: Basketball: North Baltimore High School freshman boys (1 year); New Riegel High School JV boys (5 years); New Riegel High School varsity boys (3 years); Garfield High School varsity girls (16 years).
Football: St. Wendelin High School varsity assistant (2 years); Heidelberg University graduate assistant (2 years); Tiffin Columbian High School varsity assistant (3 years); South Mcklenburg High School varsity assistant (1 year); Garfield High School varsity assistant (5 years).
Soccer: Garfield High School varsity boys (1 year); Garfield High School varsity girls (6 years).
Q: Favorite sports team?
Q: Favorite athlete then?
A: Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins.
Q: Favorite athlete now?
A: Luka Doncic.
Q: First job as a teenager?
A: Grocery store bagger at Kroger.
Q: Shoutout to former teammates?
A: I don’t really keep up with anyone from high school, so I will shoutout former players Taylor (Butler) Smith, and my current assistant coach Jackie (Tabor) Brahler.
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