A Coach for Life
Chipman more than basketball coach to family, friends, players
(photo courtesy of nathanhamphotography.com)
From The Ichabod - Spring 2017
Bob Chipman’s final season served as a tribute to his 41 years with the men’s basketball program at Washburn University.
Among the achievements celebrated and remembered were the 1987 NAIA national championship, the 2001 NCAA Division II runner-up finish, 12 trips to the NCAA tournament, nine to the NAIA tournament and 12 conference championships. He wrapped up the milestones with his 800th win earlier this year.
“To do that at one school seems almost impossible,” said Chipman, a Petosky, Michigan, native and 1973 graduate of Kansas State University.
He started as an assistant coach in 1976 and became head coach in 1979. He became the 17th coach in NCAA men’s basketball history to win 800 games on Jan. 14 this year. He finished his career 808-352.
ESPNews and the Detroit Free Press featured him this year. The University of Kansas and K-State, schools he played regularly in exhibition games, honored him during pre-season games. Emporia State even offered a tribute before their game. Washburn went 55-26 against archrival ESU under Chipman, including 31-10 in Lee Arena.
“You always want to kick Emporia’s tail, and I think we did a good job at that,” Chipman said. “That was the one our fans wanted, and you want to make your people proud.”
With family and former players surrounding Chipman on Feb. 25 before his final regular season game, Washburn University announced it would name the court in Lee Arena Bob Chipman Court.
“I want to thank all the alumni and fans for their great support,” Chipman said. “Washburn’s a special place. I think they know that. I also want to thank the Washburn administration for honoring me with the court naming.
“It couldn’t be better. A dream come true. All of it.”
Dad or Coach?
“When I decided on retirement, I said they’ll get another coach in here, probably better than me. But they’re not going to get a better family,” Chipman said.
He and his wife, Carol, have two children – Kelsey Stringer, msn ’16, and Bobby Chipman, bba ’13, mba ’16, jd ’16. Bobby played for his dad, and Kelsey played volleyball at Kansas State University and later earned a master’s of nursing degree from Washburn.
“The family is so involved with Washburn,” Chipman said. “Carol was totally involved through things like the Washburn Women’s Alliance. Kelsey took a year off her life, which was a very busy life, just to watch Bobby play. I think I’ve called her or talked to her after every game. Bobby totally knows what I’m all about and gives me great advice. They’re all in for Washburn.”
Playing for his dad showed Bobby a different side of the man who led Washburn basketball for 38 years.
“Growing up, he was always my dad. He was never my coach until I came to Washburn,” Bobby Chipman said. “He’s super positive and supportive as a parent. As a coach, he can get his point across in other ways, and it’s not always as nice.
“Winning a conference championship is definitely one of the best memories of my life. Knowing I was part of that and part of what makes him happy is something I’ll always cherish.”
On the court, Bobby didn’t quite know how to address him – dad or coach?
“I went four years of my career and I would never say, ‘hey Dad’ or ‘hey Coach,’” Bobby said. “During one of our last practices a ball was rolling his way, and I accidentally let it slip. I was like, ‘hey Dad.’ Everybody on the team started cracking up.”
One Final Tribute
Chipman tried to teach his players more than just basketball. Dozens of them came back during his final game to thank him.
Andrew Meile, bba ’09, was a quiet person when he came to Washburn in 2004. Encouragement from Chipman changed that.
“About halfway through my freshman year, Coach really started pushing me to be more vocal,” Meile said. “He pushed me into a leadership role and really valued and weighed my opinions. Now I’m a coach, and I’m a lot more vocal. I got that from playing with Coach Chipman.”
Two of the program’s all-time leading scorers also remember a role model who drove them to be better.
“Coach was the ultimate competitor,” said Ryan Murphy, who played from 1999-03. “He always wanted to make sure you left everything out there when we played. He wouldn’t take days off, and he didn’t let us take days off.”
Tom Meier, bba ’88, who played from 1983-87 and was a member of the 1987 national championship team, has brought many of Chipman’s lessons into his life.
“We all learned a lot from him with basketball,” he said. “At the same time, we learn work ethic, hard work, dedication – all things you take with you.”
Those were just three of the many who came back to share stories of playing for Chipman.
“To see them become such great husbands, dads and professionals, that means the world to me,” Chipman said. “You wonder at the end here, was it worthwhile, does anybody really care? By these guys all showing up, I thought, maybe I did make a difference, and this was all worth it.”