POCATELLO — Long before Kevin Gilbride ever hoisted a Super Bowl trophy, he roamed the sidelines of Reed Gym.
Gilbride, who won two Super Bowl titles as the offensive coordinator of the New York Giants, got his start in coaching at Idaho State, and not just on the gridiron. He returned to Pocatello recently to watch ISU's football team take on Northern Arizona, but moreover, he came to celebrate the Bengals women's basketball team — which Gilbride coached in its inaugural season, way back in 1974.
Though Gilbride is known for his football exploits and came to ISU to dip his toe into the world of football coaching, his graduate assistantship detoured from the field to the hardwood, as he was appointed to lead the very first ISU women's hoops squad.
“I really didn't have a choice. It was kind of mandated that I do it,” Gilbride told the Journal during halftime of the Bengals football game Sept. 29 at Holt Arena. “But it wound up being as much fun as I ever had coaching. I had a ball. The girls were tremendous.”
Gilbride was among dozens of former players and coaches who reunited in Pocatello for the men's and women's basketball alumni games during homecoming weekend. The East Coast native hadn't been to the Gate City since the late 1990s, at which point he was the head coach of the San Diego Chargers — a remarkable climb from his early days at Idaho State.
But Gilbride's path to football wasn't always obvious. Former ISU athletic director Milton “Dubby” Holt offered Gilbride the full-time gig as the ISU women's basketball head coach following Gilbride's trial season during time as a GA.
“Dubby Holt offered me the full-time head basketball coach (job) for $18,000,” Gilbride said. “I was only making $2,200 as a GA for football, so I thought about it.”
Though Gilbride reached the peak of football coaching by leading the Chargers for 1 1/2 seasons, the pinnacles of his career were his Super Bowl wins with the Giants — including the infamous 17-14 upset win against the unbeaten New England Patriots following the 2007 season.
Gilbride, quarterback Eli Manning and the Giants beat head coach Bill Belichick, quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots again in the Super Bowl following the 2011 season. Gilbride's Super Bowl victories, which ended with final scores of 17-14 and 21-17, are ranked sixth and 16th in ESPN's ranking of all 51 Super Bowls from best to worst.
“We won both games on the final drive,” Gilbride said. “There's nothing like those victory parades in New York City down through the Wall Street areas. It's incredible. That and when they give you the ring, those are the two things that you kind of remember most, it's not even the game.”
Gilbride retired from coaching after the 2013 season. He currently lives in Rhode Island and does prep work for NBC's weekly Sunday Night Football broadcasts.
Gilbride says he analyzes game tape from the teams playing in an upcoming Sunday night matchup and makes “teaching tapes,” which assist NBC's camera crew and on-air analysts during the broadcast.
“I annotate and telestrate on (the teaching tapes). I got about a half hour to 45 minutes on each side of the ball and each team,” Gilbride said. “(Analyst) Cris Collinsworth is a perfectionist, so he likes to hear, 'What did you see, why is that guy getting beat technically, what are they doing schematically?'”
During his visit, Gilbride caught up with a few of his former players from his ISU days, including ISU Hall of Fame inductee Karen Tharp. He reflected on his time in Pocatello fondly.
“The women were just so enthusiastic. They were like sponges,” Gilbride said. “I wish some of the pro players I coached were as enthusiastic as them and responsive as they were. They were terrific.”