Coach Ken Stibler
Coach Ken Stibler was the founding Athletic Director and the first Men’s Basketball Coach at Biscayne College/St. Thomas University. Stibler served as Athletic Director and Men’s Basketball Coach from 1966-1983, compiling 216 wins in his coaching career including victories over major universities such as University of Houston, LaSalle, Dayton, Fairfield, Iona, Southern Mississippi, South Alabama and Yale while also battling national powers such as Florida State University and Tennessee University. During his time at the University, he served many roles – at times promoter, public relations man, sports publicity man, cheerleader, trainer, and coach. Stibler was a professor of English Composition, Sports Administration, Business Communication and Report Writing, and History; and was named ‘Professor of the Year’ four times in his tenure at Biscayne College.
Coach Stibler was a trailblazer who built the St. Thomas University Athletics program into what it is today.
St. Thomas University’s Athletics, which currently has 14 varsity sports including seven men’s sports and seven women’s sports, is the heart and spirit of the campus, and its courts, fields, and other facilities are learning laboratories where our student-athletes develop the skills and attitudes to become Leaders for Life. Our coaches instill in our athletes the five Core Values of Champions of Character: integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership, and our student-athletes have the highest GPA at the University with 12 of 14 varsity teams earning NAIA Scholar-Team awards in 2018.
Coach Stibler was devoted to developing his students’ talents on and off the field, and completely believed in their abilities. In recognition of the impact he had on Biscayne College/St. Thomas University, the University is establishing the Coach Ken Stibler Athletics Scholarship Fund, and on May 4, 2019, the University will commemorate Coach Ken Stibler’s legacy by naming the street that leads to our Athletics Complex area as “Coach Ken Stibler Way.” This fund will support current and future student-athletes with financial need who are pursuing their undergraduate degree at St. Thomas University. Your support will ensure that higher education continues and is accessible to all student-athletes to help produce winners on their field of play and in the classrooms.
Coach Ken Stibler’s Anecdotes and Achievements
Coach Stibler was born in Bayonne, New Jersey and obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management from Seton Hall University, and his Master’s Degree in Social Studies from Montclair State University. The summer following his graduation from Seton Hall, Ken was the player-coach at the Laurels Country Club in the New York Catskill Mountains, where he played a role in recruiting 6’9” Joe Quigg and future All-American Lenny Rosenbluth for renowned coach Frank McGuire and his eventual NCAA National Champion University of North Carolina squad. In September, Ken took on a graduate assistant coaching position at UNC, but after two months, he was drafted into the US Army where he became the player-coach for the school troops in the Regimental League at Fort Knox, Kentucky, comprised of outstanding former college and professional players.
Twenty-three months later, following his military discharge, and with no coaching positions available at North Carolina, he began working on his master’s degree and become an assistant coach at Montclair State. He further established his reputation as one of the best recruiters in the East, continuing to recruit for North Carolina and Navy, in addition to Florida Southern, Rollins, and St. Bonaventure. After finishing his Master’s Degree, he taught at Mendham Township Elementary for three years before heading to Loyola of New Orleans to become assistant varsity and freshman coach, in addition to varsity tennis coach. He was a member of the United States professional laws tennis association and the club pro at the Morris country club.
During his first year at Loyola, he traveled just over 36,000 miles recruiting from Maine to New Mexico. This helped Ken build up close friendships with enumerable high school coaches. At Loyola, he recruited three high school All- Americans, the top scorer and rebounder in New Jersey, and three all- staters to quickly help build Loyola into one of the best teams in the South. He coached the Loyola freshman team – the best in the school’s history – to a 19-1 record avenging its 51-50 loss by 31 points in a rematch, and averaging 91 points a game for the season.
Six years later, Ken rejoined coach McGuire at the University of South Carolina after McGuire left the Philadelphia Warriors, whom he had coached to within 2 points of winning an NBA championship. During his two years at South Carolina he recruited four outstanding New Jersey All- State performers, a lightly recruited Jersey guard who wound up being drafted in the first round of the NBA draft by the Atlanta Hawks. Ken played an important role in recruiting 6’9” 240-pound Mike Grosso, a Jerseyite who was considered the second best high school player in the nation behind 7’1” Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) before suffering a serious disabling knee injury.
In 1964, Ken and his wife Dorothy took on the opportunity to live in Florida and the challenge of building a new program at Biscayne College. Ken Stibler became the first men’s basketball coach and Athletic Director at Biscayne College. Then it was just a two-building campus, with no athletic facilities, no alumni base, and no summer jobs for athletes or coaches. Biscayne had asinine rules that insisted all students wear coat jackets in 94-degree weather, and made a basketball player ineligible if he flunked one course – even if he got A’s in the other four subjects – it was the only college in the nation with this rule. The second year at Biscayne the Stiblers brought two players into their home for a year at their own expense after promised donations failed to materialize.
For the first 12 years of the college’s existence, it is safe to say that anyone who knew about Biscayne knew about the college mainly because of Stibler. He was a ‘one-man band’ going up and down the Eastern seaboard talking on radio shows, at business luncheons, high school awards banquets, coaching clinics, and church functions. Examining the scrapbooks in the archives will show that the majority of articles about Biscayne were about Stibler and the Bobcats. Coach Stibler put the college on the map. His quick wit and quotable lines made the papers everywhere, decades before anyone heard of sound bites.
An early example of his promotional flair was the time he brought two eight-foot palm trees (courtesy of the City of Miami) and two crates of oranges, which he had a model toss to the crowd, to the game against St. Peter’s College at the Jersey City Armory, gaining a considerable amount of publicity in New Jersey.
Coach Stibler was the host of radio call-in shows and made many television appearances. He wrote many basketball related articles for newspapers, books, and magazines. Ken and his team were featured in “Converse All Star” basketball sneaker commercials for two consecutive years, which were shown on prime time TV during the NCAA and NBA finals, etc. The commercial gave Stibler, the team, and the college visibility, and helped fund some of the players’ books, fees and recruiting expenses.
During his career as Athletic Director and coach at Biscayne, it is estimated he gave over 100 talks across Florida. Stibler was the featured speaker at five college or university award banquets and 34 high school awards dinners, from Key West to St. Augustine. He was also a featured speaker at the Florida High School Basketball Association Clinic at the University of Florida and the New Jersey High School Basketball Association Clinic at Rutgers University.
Ten of Biscayne’s games were shown on television regionally, and over the years, Biscayne’s team played in 29 states and received over a million dollars of publicity. The Bobcats played in Dallas, Washington, Boston, Cincinnati, Dayton, Newark, Atlanta, New York, Philadelphia, Providence, Houston, New Orleans, Chicago, and Jersey City. During this time, the Bobcats received more guarantee money than any Division II team in the nation.
His teams defeated 26 major universities including the University of Houston’s Phi Slamma Jamma, considered to be the greatest win in the history of Division II Basketball. The Cats defeated Dayton twice, had wins over La Salle; Southern Mississippi; Old Dominion; Evansville; South Alabama; Yale; Iona; St Peters College; College of Charleston; Fairfield; and East Tennessee, which during the same season defeated Villanova by 17 points.
The Cats had losses of five points or less to Texas, SEC Champion University of Tennessee 72-68 (a team which defeated the University of Florida by 30 points), Temple 55-51, and without two starters lost to the University of Miami 62-60.
Biscayne was selected for the NCAA tournament three times under Stibler. His Biscayne team was invited to the NCAA tournament in 1982 when they defeated defending national champion, Florida Southern at Lakeland overcoming a 27-point deficit in the second half and defeated 4th ranked nationally Central Florida to win the Sunshine State Conference Championship and received the NCAA invitation. The Cats subsequently loss one game and won one game in the tournament.
Ken was elected Chairman of the NCAA Rules Committee, the prestigious position which had him making most of the significant changes like the shot clock and three-point shot. He was featured in many of the nation’s top newspapers including the USA Today. He held this position for seven years.
Stibler was selected “Coach of the Year” in the NCAA Southern Region and was selected “Sunshine State Conference Coach of the Year” and co-coach of the year in the last two years he coached. His invocation at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes breakfast before an audience of 2,000 was held in conjunction with the NCAA tournament in March 1981. It was so well received that it was reprinted in the National Association of College Basketball Coaches magazine as well as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes publication.
Ken also did the TV Color Commentary for the University of Miami’s basketball games, and also served as a consultant for the New Jersey Nets and as an advanced scout for the Charlotte Bobcats, scouting opponents and team’s personnel for possible trades or player acquisitions.
In his last years as Athletic Director, the Men’s soccer, men and women cross-country teams won Sunshine State Conference Championships while the baseball team came in second. The golf team finished fourth and the basketball team qualified for the top four teams playing for the championship for each consecutive year of the conferences existence. Once he left his coaching position, he began to contribute sports articles on a regular basis for South Florida newspapers and ran a Scouting Service, scouting future opponents for many of the outstanding college teams in the nation.
Over time, Ken served as the Intramural Director, Sports Information Director, Job Placement Director, Alumni Director, and Director of the Student Teaching Program. He continued to teach Communications and Report Writing, English, History (six different courses including Independent Studies) and the first Sports Administrations course offered by the college. Once he was relieved of his duties as coach, AD, and Alumni Director he began teaching a full schedule and was selected “Teacher of the Year” for four consecutive years before he retired. He and his wife also matched his students’ charitable contributions annually each semester. He was also selected by a student vote as the teacher having the best sense of humor.