As he enters his 26th season as the head coach of the Philadelphia University women’s basketball, and his 34th season overall, Tom Shirley is one of the most successful coaches in the history of the women’s game.
Shirley has the seventh-highest win total in Division II—30th in all levels—with 661 career victories, 512 coming at Philadelphia University. He is just one of 41 women’s basketball coaches in NCAA history to surpass the 600-win plateau.
Since coming to Philadelphia in 1989 to serve as the University’s associate director of athletics and women’s basketball coach, Shirley—who become the director of athletics in 1992—has created a strong tradition of winning which has led the team to a record of 512-238. The Rams have been to five NCAA Tournaments, won 20 or more games 18 times—including a streak of 10 20-win seasons from 1991 to 2001—, claimed two Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference titles, had 10 ECAC runner-up finishes, produced five All-Americans and one National Player of the Year.
In addition to his administrative and coaching duties, Shirley is in the final year for a four-year term on the NCAA Women’s Basketball Rules Committee. He has served as the president of the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) Athletic Directors Council and was a member of the NCAA Division II Championships Committee. Shirley was recognized by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics in 2007, earning the AstroTurf NCAA Division II Athletic Director of the Year award.
A season ago, Philadelphia posted its 18th 20-win season under Shirley with a 20-8 overall record, claimed its first CACC southern division championship, and reached the CACC Tournament semifinals. Shirley—who was named the CACC coach of the year—earned his 500th career win at Philadelphia University on January 8, 2014 with a 94-63 win at Wilmington. Three Rams were named to the All-CACC team, including first-team selection Najah Jacobs.
The Rams went 14-13 overall during the 2012-13 campaign and reached the CACC Championship Tournament for the seventh straight year. Freshman Tori Arnao was tabbed as the conference's rookie of the year and to the second team. Senior Kristen Blye was named to the Capital One Academic All-America Division II women's basketball second team.
In 2010-11, Shirley became the 30th women’s basketball coach in NCAA history to reach 600 career wins on Jan. 19, 2011 as the Rams knocked off Chestnut Hill defeated Chestnut Hill, 76-60, in the Gallagher Center. Philadelphia finished the year 15-12 overall. The 2008-09 season saw Philadelphia go 21-10 overall, claim its first CACC title since joining the league in 2005, and qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2001.
During the 1990s Philadelphia was a dominant force as it won 20 or more games each year, made three NCAA Tournaments, produced a pair All-Americans, and one National Player of the Year. In the 1992-93 season, Shirley led the Lady Rams to a school record 27 wins and to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since becoming the team’s head coach. The team’s effort helped Shirley earn the American Women’s Sports Federation Division II Coach of the Year and Converse District Coach of the Year awards. One year later, Tammy Greene—a four-time all-American—was named the Division II National Player of the Year after averaging a school record 26.1 points per game.
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 rounds 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 a MBA from Philadelphia University, and Caitlin, a graduate of St. Joseph’s University.