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The Long Beach State women’s volleyball team dedicated its locker room to perhaps the university’s all-time greatest coach during a private ceremony Saturday morning in the Walter Pyramid. The women’s volleyball locker room will now be known as the Brian Gimmillaro Locker Room. The team also honored Gimmillaro with a ceremony during Saturday evening’s Long Beach State and Hawaii match in the Pyramid.
“I talked to my daughter and my son and they said great things to me about it,” said Gimmillaro while sitting courtside watching the match. “They both said that’s cool. And my son said, ‘When you look at that, realize that it’s not just about your name on the wall. It symbolizes the hundreds of women who you had a positive effect on their life. I thought that was really nice. And I hope that’s true.”
Gimmillaro was the coach of the 49ers from 1985 through 2016, winning three NCAA titles, three National Coach of the Year honors, and making 28 NCAA appearances in 32 years of coaching. He also coached more than 50 All-Americans and four AVCA National Players of the Year.
There was a great turnout of those alums on Saturday, with Misty May-Treanor and dozens of other former LBSU players. It was a nice moment of reflection for an accomplished coach, who didn’t allow himself many of those moments while in the midst of his career.
“Oh it’s horrible, you just have your blinders on when you’re coaching,” said Gimmillaro. “There’s so many difficult decisions that affect everybody, you can’t take time. But this is nice.”
Gimmillaro received an extended standing ovation after being recognized on the court, and it seemed like almost everyone in attendance stopped by at some point to say hello. After someone made a joke that he probably knew 1,000 of the people in attendance, Gimmillaro cracked a smile. “Way more than a thousand,” he said.
The evening wasn’t just a reunion for Gimmillaro, of course, it was also a special night for all of the alums who came out to support him.
“It’s like a wedding or something, we don’t always get to see each other like this,” said LBSU alum Laren Munkel, who was there with her fellow AVCA Beach Volleyball national champion teammates Libby Fontanilla and Jocelyn Neely. Other alums and coaches reunited, with longtime Gimmillaro assistant and setting guru Debbie Green playing with May-Treanor’s kids in the stands.
With the energy in the building, it definitely felt like old times, although the Beach and the Rainbow Warriors weren’t ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the nation, as they have been at times when meeting in the Pyramid. First-year head coach Tyler Hildebrand made re-energizing the Beach fanbase and alumni a big goal of his this year, and it’s obvious that it’s working with more than 2,300 fans in attendance Saturday, the biggest crowd since 2016.
“Tyler’s great, his assistants are great, and I just hope this team can bring back what was once here,” Gimmillaro said. “They have their own identities, but if it’s tonight or the next match of the next match I hope they can bring it back.”
If the roar of the crowd for the Beach’s spirited comeback effort was any indication, they’re well on their way to doing just that. The Beach dropped the first two sets 25-20, 25-21, but then came roaring back to win set three 25-15 while hitting .400, before ultimately dropping a deciding fourth set 25-19.
The Beach were led by Jaylen Jordan’s 14 kills, 11 from Katie Kennedy, and 10 from Morgan Chacon. Setter Zayna Meyer had 40 assists, Kameron Bacon had six blocks, and Dylan Dela Cruz had 15 digs. They were statistically even with Hawaii, something that hasn’t been true for many seasons.
“We had four Olympians in the stands today, talking to them after they said, ‘Hey, that was an even match, just a couple plays here or there went the other way,’” said Hildebrand.
Meyer said it was inspiring to her to have so many fans show up.
“It’s pretty incredible that our community is showing up in this way, it’s pretty special with what we’re trying to do here,” she said. Meyer also said that having the Long Beach legends in attendance meant a lot to her.
“I love volleyball and it’s just mindblowing that Misty May is watching me play, to see these legends and know that they have our back in rebuilding this program,” she said.