Legendary Mercer University coach Bill Bibb passes away

According to a press release from the school, Bill Bibb, men's basketball head coach at Mercer University from 1974 to 1989, died Thursday afternoon.

Bibb was 86-years-old and was the most successful coach in Mercer men's basketball history with 222 wins during his 15 years with the school.

During his tenure, Mercer reached the NCAA Tournament twice and won its first two Trans America Athletic Conference (TAAC) titles in 1981 and 1985.

"Bill Bibb is a Mercer coaching legend who I believe never received the recognition due to him," said former Mercer Director of Athletics Bobby Pope. "He finished his coaching career more than 30 years ago and remains the school's winningest coach, despite limited budgets and resources at the time.

"He was tough, but fair, and I think you would get that assessment from the men who played for him at Mercer," continued Pope. "I knew Bill and his wife, Linda, from the day he arrived on the Mercer campus and we were colleagues, but more than that, we were friends. The one thing I remember most about Bill Bibb is that he was his own man, and you never had to guess where you stood with him. He will be missed."

Bibb was named conference coach of the year twice and mentored 17 all-conference student-athletes and eight players who were drafted by National Basketball Association (NBA) teams. Among Bibb's players was Mercer legend Sam Mitchell, who played in the NBA from 1989-2002 and coached with five NBA organizations, including Toronto, where he was named NBA Coach of the Year in 2006-07.

Bibb's success was extended as an administrator. While maintaining his coaching duties, Bibb also served as Mercer's Director of Athletics from 1980-89. He was a founding father of the TAAC – a men's sports only league – in 1978 before becoming the conference's third full-time commissioner in 1991. He helped oversee the merger between the TAAC and the New South Women's Athletic Conference in the 1991-92 academic year. The conference name later changed to the Atlantic Sun Conference beginning with the 2001-02 academic year.

"This is certainly a time of loss for all who knew and loved Bill, but it also provides a great opportunity to celebrate all that he gave in his life," said Atlantic Sun Commissioner Ted Gumbart. "A tremendously successful coach, athletics director and commissioner, Bill influenced so many people in a positive way. He readily accepted the teaching and performance responsibilities each of his roles demanded, and he stood very proudly when observing the outcome of his efforts, which he measured by the success of those whose lives he touched. Bill was a life-changing influence in my life, and I know the same goes for countless others."

Bibb was inducted into the Mercer Athletics Hall of Fame in 1997, the Macon Sports Hall of Fame in 2009 and later the ASUN Hall of Fame in 2016.

A native of Owensboro, Ky., Bibb was a two-sport athlete at the University of Kentucky, where he played basketball and baseball. He signed to play basketball for legendary coach Adolph Rupp and was a member of the Wildcats' undefeated team in 1954, which finished 25-0. He later transferred to Kentucky Wesleyan, where he played two seasons and participated in the NCAA's first-ever Division II Championship Tournament and earned AP All-American honors as a senior in 1957.

"While I did not know Bill on a personal level, I am thankful and appreciative for the outstanding work he did during his time at Mercer," said Mercer Director of Athletics Jim Cole. "We mourn his loss, but we also reflect on his accomplishments with an appreciation for the foundation he helped build at our outstanding university."

Read more about Bibb's legacy here.

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