As he enters his 29th season in 2017-18 as the head coach of the Rams' women’s basketball program, 37th overall, Tom Shirley is one of the most successful coaches in the history of the women’s game.
The 2014 Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) Coach of the Year, Shirley had guided the Rams to seven NCAA Tournament appearances, two CACC championships, and two Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference crowns.
Shirley enters the 2017-18 campaign with 722 victories, which place him third in NCAA Division II women’s basketball history and 21st across all three divisions. In his first 28 seasons Philadelphia University, the Rams have a record of 573-269 and won at least 20 games 20 times—including each of the last three seasons.
Under Shirley’s guidance, six different players have earned All-American honors: Tammy Greene (1991-94), Darlene Hildebrand (1992), Theresa Carroll (2000), Samara Speakes (2004-05), Christine Wooding (2012), and Bria Young (2016). Since the University joined the CACC in the 2005-06 season, Shirley has coached 26 players to All-CACC honors, including two CACC Players of the Year (Christine Wooding – 2012, Bria Young – 2016) and one CACC Rookie of the Year (Tori Arnao – 2013).
In the classroom, the Rams have had tremendous success with 17 players earning CACC Women’s Basketball All-Academic Team honors. Of those 17 student-athletes, eight have made the conference’s all-academic team eight times. Jessica Romano (2009 – 3rd team) and Kristen Blye (2013 – 2nd team) earning a place on the CoSIDA Academic All-America Team. Philadelphia University has been recognized twice by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association as the Rams made the organization’s Academic Top 25 Honor Roll in 2004 (16th) and 2015 (T-17th).
In addition to his Coach of the Year award, Shirley—who came to Philadelphia University in 1989 as the University’s associate director of athletics and women’s basketball head coach and was elevated to director of athletics in 1992—was selected as the American Women’s Sports Federation Division II Coach of the Year and Converse District Coach of the Year in 1993.
Along with his administrative and coaching duties, Shirley is in the middle of his second four-year term on the NCAA Division II Championships Committee, a committee he previously served from 2005 to 2009. He has served as the president of the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) Athletic Directors Council and was a member of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Rules Committee.
Philadelphia enjoyed tremendous success during the 2015-16 season as the Rams racked up 25 victories for the first time since 1997-98, win their second CACC title, and qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year.
The Rams won their first CACC championship in 2009 as the team knocked off Wilmington 72-63 in the final. The victory put the team in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in eight seasons. In addition, Shirley became the 24th NCAA women's basketball coach to reach 700 career wins on Feb. 6, 2016—a 59-54 win at Dominican (N.Y.) College.
During the 1990s, Philadelphia was a dominant force as it won 20 or more games every season in the decade, made three NCAA Tournaments, produced a pair All-Americans, and one National Player of the Year. In the 1992-93 season, Shirley led the Rams to a school record 27 wins and to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since becoming the team’s head coach. In 1994, Greene was selected the Division II National Player of the Year after averaging a school-record 26.1 points per game. The Rams defeated Stonehill 63-59 in the first round of the 1998 NCAA Tournament to record the program’s first NCAA Tournament victory since reaching the national semifinals in 1986.
On Feb. 20, 1997, Shirley became the program’s all-time winningest head coach with a 72-60 road victory over New York Collegiate Athletic Conference foe Adelphi to pick up his 123rd win with the Rams. The 30th women’s basketball coach in NCAA history to reach 600 career wins, Shirley picked up his 600th victory on Jan. 19, 2011 as the Rams defeated Chestnut Hill, 76-60, in the Gallagher Center. He joined the 700-win club with a 59-54 triumph at Dominican College on Feb. 6, 2016.
Shirley began his head coaching career at DeSales University, his alma mater. He transformed an eight-win program into one of the top teams in the NAIA District 19, taking the Centaurs to the playoffs in four straight seasons from 1985 until 1988.
DeSales joined NCAA Division III in the 1988-89 season. Shirley quickly put the school on the D-III map as DeSales went 24-6 overall and reached the Sweet Sixteen round of the 1989 NCAA Tournament. Shirley, who also served as the director of athletics for eight years, has the distinction of coaching DeSales’ first three women’s basketball All-Americans: Lynn Butler, Tina Costello, and Karin Povish. He left DeSales with 148 wins, which is the second-highest total in school history.
Shirley lives in Harleysville, Pa., with his wife, Monica, and has two daughters—Kristen, who has a bachelor’s in psychology and an MBA from Philadelphia University, and Caitlin, a graduate of St. Joseph’s University.
|Tom Shirley's Coaching Record|
|1988-89||DeSales||24-6||.800||Round of 16|
|1992-93||Philadelphia U.||27-2||.931||First Round|
|1996-97||Philadelphia U.||21-8||.724||First Round|
|1997-98||Philadelphia U.||25-9||.735||Second Round|
|2000-01||Philadelphia U.||21-12||.636||First Round|
|2008-09||Philadelphia U.||21-10||.677||First Round|
|2014-15||Philadelphia U.||22-9||.710||First Round|
|2015-16||Philadelphia U.||25-7||.781||First Round|
|8 years at DeSales||149-73||.671|
|28 years at Philadelphia U.||573-269||.681|
|36-year career record||722-342||.679|