Lisella Retires as Women’s Basketball Coach at Rowan; Poles named Interim Head Coach

Gabby Lisella, head women’s basketball coach since 2000, and the Rowan University women’s basketball all-time leader in wins, has announced that she will be retiring from coaching to devote more time to her duties as associate athletic director for internal operations at the University.

Demetrius Poles, Lisella’s assistant for the past three seasons, will take over on an interim appointment as Rowan’s ninth head women’s basketball coach.

Lisella’s basketball head coaching career has spanned 29 years, with the last 19 at Rowan where she amassed a school-record 260 victories. Along the way, she has guided 30 Prof student-athletes to All-NJAC honors and has seen six receive WBCA All-America recognition. Her 2015-16 squad compiled a 25-6 record and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament while she was honored as the Atlantic Region Coach of the Year.

“I have always believed that my primary responsibility as a collegiate coach has been to prepare our student-athletes to be successful after graduation,” said Lisella. “I couldn’t be more proud of the amazing women that have come through our program.  They have proven themselves to be outstanding in their chosen career paths and, more importantly, are people of character.”

“I look forward to the opportunity to work on projects to benefit the entire athletic department in my new role.  Rowan’s recent growth has totally transformed the university and I welcome the prospect of helping the athletic department to grow in the same manner.”

“Coach Lisella has always emphasized mentoring and caring for her student-athletes. Her distinguished coaching career will be known for her integrity and values as much as her record-setting win totals. She values her player relationships above all else and those will remain her greatest legacy,” said interim director of athletics Dr. John Giannini. “Moving forward, Gabby will be a tremendous asset to our department as we want to continually improve our operations, game day experiences and facilities for our outstanding teams.”

Before coming to Rowan, Lisella was the head coach and assistant athletic director at Oswego State (NY) for five seasons and the head coach at the University of the South (Sewanee) in Tennessee for four years. A graduate of East Stroudsburg University where she played basketball and volleyball, Lisella’s first head coaching stint came at St. Lawrence University (NY) in 1990-91 when she served as the interim head women’s basketball coach.

What Lisella’s former players are saying: 

“Through my time at Rowan with Gabby we experienced many memories. I will always be grateful for the patience she had with me and that she never gave up on me. She always wanted the best for her players and I appreciate her always being a presence after our careers were over. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without her influence.”

  • Jaime McCormack Land ’05, Current teacher at Williamstown High School 

“Gabby has had the opportunity to impact so many lives through the game of basketball and I am grateful that I could be one of those players.  I am very excited for her as she enters the next phase of her career and have no doubt that she will continue to lead and teach in her new role.  As a young player at Sewanee, she not only taught me about the game, but put me in a leadership role early in my career in order to empower me at a young age.  Through my 20 years of coaching, I am so glad that she has continued to be a mentor and a friend to me.  I wish her nothing but happiness moving forward.”

  • Brandi Poole Upson, University of the South (Sewanee); Current assistant coach with the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun

“The four years I spent at Rowan were some of the greatest years of my life and I owe it to Gabby Lisella and Rowan Women’s Basketball. Being a collegiate athlete is something that many don’t get to experience and I’m forever thankful that Gabby saw something in me and wanted me at Rowan… The partnership and confidence she had in not only myself, but my teammates like Jaime McCormack and Stephanie Finke, helped us to push not only ourselves, but our teammates to create the successful seasons we had. I am forever grateful for the relationship we’ve built and continue to have after graduating. Gabby is a great friend, genuinely cares for her players and treats us like family.”

  • Kami Bernardo Reitano ’05, Current accounting manager at Cooper University Health Care

Photo Courtesy Rowan Athletics

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