As he enters his 27th season as the head coach of the Philadelphia University women’s basketball, and his 35th season overall, Tom Shirley is one of the most successful coaches in the history of the women’s game.
Shirley has the third-highest win total in Division II—28th in all levels—with 683 career victories, 534 coming at Philadelphia University. He is just one of 56 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 534-247. The Rams have been to six NCAA Tournaments, won 20 or more games 19 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 starting his second four-year term on the NCAA Division II Championships Committee. He was previously on the committee 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.
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 year ago, he was tabbed the CACC Athletic Director of the Year by his peers.
Last season, Philadelphia posted its 19th 20-win season under Shirley with a 22-9 overall record and qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009. The Rams reached the final of the CACC Tournament, marking their first appearance in the conference tournament final in six seasons. Philadelphia placed three players on the All-CACC team. Najah Jacobs was a first-team selection for the season straight year, while Monica Schacker and Bria Young named to the third team. Off the court, Philadelphia earned a place on the Women's Basketball Coaches Association honor roll with the 17th best grade-point average in Division II.
In 2014, Shirley was voted as the CACC Coach of the Year after leading the Rams to 20-8 overall record, claimed its first CACC southern division championship, and reached the CACC Tournament semifinals. On Jan. 8, 2014, Shirley earned his 500th win at Philadelphia University 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. 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 defeated Chestnut Hill, 76-60, in the Gallagher Center.
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 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.