Hillhouse names alumnus Walter Gibbs as its next head football coach

Photo of Sean Patrick Bowley
New Hillhouse coach Walter Gibbs, as a player for the Academics in the 1990s (left), and as an assistant at Southern Connecticut State (right).

New Hillhouse coach Walter Gibbs, as a player for the Academics in the 1990s (left), and as an assistant at Southern Connecticut State (right).

Photos courtesy of New Haven Athletics and SCSU

Walter Gibbs, a Hillhouse graduate and former assistant coach on two state championship teams, has been named as the school’s next head football coach, New Haven Director of Athletics Erik Patchkofsky announced Monday night.

Gibbs, 41, had spent the last 16 years as an assistant coach at Southern Connecticut State. But his mother, Wanda, always envisioned Gibbs would one day take over at Hillhouse. 

So when she died at age 70 from cancer complications on July 5 and the Hillhouse job suddenly opened in November, Gibbs said he was compelled to apply for the job. 

"She always envisioned me taking the head coaching job at Hillhouse," Gibbs said of his mother, a longtime New Haven school administrator who spent time as an assistant principal at Hillhouse and is known as the first female to coach on a boys basketball team when she was at West Haven.

"From her, I developed my passion for helping kids. It's a family thing. I spent a lot of time with her and learned how important it is to help kids and give back to your community. At Hillhouse, I'm looking to help as many young men and be a positive a role model in their lives."

The New Haven Board of Education approved his appointment Monday evening. Gibbs takes over for Reggie Lytle, who resigned in November after coaching the team to a 50-45 record, including the 2016 Class M title, over 10 years. 

Gibbs played center at Hillhouse from 1995-99, where he served as a captain, and spent two seasons at Delaware State before returning to New Haven to finish his college career.. 

Gibbs played at SCSU from 2003-05, earning all-New England and All-Northeast 10 honors as a senior as the Owls earned their first NCAA Division II playoff berth.

He joined Eric Barbarito's staff at Hillhouse and helped the Academics to state championship seasons in 2002 and 2006. When Barbarito stepped down, Gibbs joined Southern's staff as an offensive line coach in 2007. He currently serves as a security officer for New Haven Public Schools. 

"I was very comfortable at Southern, it was a great job with a lot of great people," Gibbs said. "I just felt at this time in my life, I'm ready for a new challenge."

Though Hillhouse's most-recent state title was only six seasons ago, the program hasn't had a winning season since 2017. One of Gibbs' goals is to get the program back where it belongs: Playing championship-caliber football.

"I’m biased, but I believe Hillhouse is one of best programs in the state," he said. "And one of my goals, in addition to helping as many kids as we can become good players and good citizens, is hopefully winning a lot of games."

Patchkofsky said Gibbs stood out from three rounds of interviews with as many as 11 applicants.

"Walter has demonstrated through this process to show a wealth of knowledge of football as well as a complete understanding of the Hillhouse and New Haven Athletic community," Patchkofsky said in a statement. "We are confident that the process has identified the best candidate to help move Hillhouse football into its next chapter. We look forward to watching the program grow under Walter’s leadership."