Mike Gambino leaving Boston College for Penn State surprised a lot of people.
For Penn State fans, it’s a pleasant surprise.
A program that hasn’t made an NCAA Tournament since 2000 hired a coach who got there this spring and was rewarded for it with a five-year extension from Boston College last month. Although Gambino didn’t make Boston College a perennial powerhouse— in fact, he lost 75 more games then he won over 13 seasons— he made the program competitive in arguably America’s second-best baseball conference, the ACC. In short, it’s hard to say Penn State, given it’s lack of baseball prominence, could have realistically hired somebody better.
For Boston College fans, Gambino leaving was unexpected and unwanted.
Expecting Gambino to spend his whole career at his alma mater might have been a little much.
He’s still a young guy. Gambino celebrated his 46th birthday three days prior to this writing, and had already been BC’s head coach for 13 years. So logic tells us that it was inevitable for him to move on eventually.
But considering Gambino’s recent extension and considering Penn State’s lack of baseball success (one Big Ten Tournament win since 2008), most Boston College people didn’t expect him to leave this summer and certainly not for Penn State.
So what went into Gambino’s decision leave his alma mater for Happy Valley?
For one, Gambino already loves the Penn State community.
“Now I will tell you about coming down here to Penn State. It is really really easy to see why people fall in love with this place. I’ve been here for about a week now, and this place is special.”
”It’s overwhelming. The support. The outreach. And I think all know this, people that fall in love with their alma mater and the people that went to Penn State and the fans, the things that make a place special— the buildings here are beautiful, and the facilities are beautiful— but the thing that makes a place special are the people, the relationships, the memories that you’re able to make. I cannot tell you how excited I am to build those relationships and create those memories, both with my family and with our former players and our alumn and the fans.
Another big factor in Gambino’s decision was his family.
Without getting into specifics, Gambino mentioned “family medical concerns” that have been going on over the past few years.
“What people here were able to do to make sure that our family medical concerns were met was unbelievable,” he said. “So, to be honest with you, the place is going to be special. The investment’s amazing. I love coaching baseball. But as you guys get to know me, nothing is more important than my family. So, when they were able to address those, changed the conversation, and then it happened quickly.”
Gambino’s relationship with Penn State athletic director Pat Kraft was another factor. Kraft was Boston College’s AD from the Fall of 2020 through July 1 of last year.
Now, Gambino has followed Kraft to Pennsylvania, but he was sure to give gratitude for his time at BC during his first Penn State presser.
“It was an honor to be able to be a small part of that program,” Gambino said. “I hope we were able to leave that program in a better spot.”
Gambino expected to love State College before setting foot there.
But so far, the place has exceeded his expectations.
“When you come visit it, when you’re able to see—the buildings are the buildings, but when you’re able to see the outpouring of support, it’s really easy to fall in love with,” he said.