Tom Shirley, Legendary Jefferson University Women’s Basketball Coach, to be honored with PSWA Special Achievement Award
It takes one to know one as the old saying goes.
So when looking for a comment on long-time Jefferson University women’s basketball coach Tom Shirley having won over 800 games, retired Villanova women’s mentor Harry Perretta was approached.
“I just think it’s great, when you see a coach is at a place he’s happy at, or she’s happy at, and they just do their job,” Perretta said. “He’s a great coach and I’m just happy and real excited for him.”
Shirley is one of the most successful coaches on the collegiate sports landscape. Two seasons ago he reached his 800th victory and upped that total to 833 in this, his 33rd season, and he will be recognized with a Special Achievement Award from the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association.
Heading into this season, his 32-year program record was 672-298. Combined with the 1,144 victories of recently retired Jefferson men’s coach Herb Magee, a Hall of Famer, the total of 1,977 was clearly unique among all NCAA programs.
Shirley has actually been at the East Falls school for 34 seasons, having left his previous job at his alma mater, DeSales in Allentown in 1989 to become the associate director of athletics. He was promoted to athletic director in 1992. He has been at the school through its various name changes from Philadelphia Textile, to Philadelphia University, and now Thomas Jefferson after the merger with the medical university.
In 2005-06, the school joined the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) and Shirley has produced 36 players earning Al-CACC honors, including three Players of the Year — Christine Wooding (2012), Bria Young (2016), and Jessica Kaminski (2019). In 2013, Tori Arnao was the CACC’s Rookie of the Year.
Six of Shirley’s players were All-Americans: Tammy Greene (1991-94), Darlene Hildebrand (1992), Theresa Carroll (2000), Samara Speakes (2004-05), Wooding (2012) and Young (2016). Off the court, 31 of his players earned the conference’s All-Academic honors.
In 2018-19, Shirley’s Rams went 29-3, their third CACC title and automatic NCAA berth. The season also featured the best start in the program at 20-0.
Shirley became the program’s winningest coach with his 123d win, beating Adelphi as a member of the New York Collegiate Athletic Conference, Feb. 20, 1997.
His coaching career in the 1980s, when he helped DeSales become a power in NAIA District 19. When the school joined NCAA Division III in 1988-89, it went 24-6 and advanced to the NCAA Division III Sweet Sixteen.
Shirley lives in Harleysville, Pa., with his wife, Monica, and two daughters — Kristen, who earned a bachelors of science degree in psychology and an MBA from Philadelphia U., and Caitlin, a graduate of Saint Joseph’s University.
By Mel Greenberg
Philadelphia Sports Writers Association
(Photo, Thomas Jefferson University)