Amherst College women’s basketball coach Gromacki fastest in NCAA history to reach 600 wins

Amherst College women’s basketball coach G.P. Gromacki poses with his team following last week’s win over Connecticut College at LeFrak Gymnasium in Amherst. The victory was No. 600 for Gromacki.

Amherst College women’s basketball coach G.P. Gromacki poses with his team following last week’s win over Connecticut College at LeFrak Gymnasium in Amherst. The victory was No. 600 for Gromacki. KRIS DUFOUR/AMHERST ATHLETICS

By GARRETT COTE

Staff Writer

Published: 02-08-2024 8:33 PM

Dynasty isn’t a term that gets thrown around loosely – that word holds a ton of weight in the sports world. It takes a lot of success over an extended period of time to call something a dynasty.

But that’s exactly what South Deerfield native G.P. Gromacki has built during his 17 seasons as head coach of the Amherst College women’s basketball team, and last Friday night further cemented that sentiment.

The Mammoths defeated Connecticut College 58-48 at LeFrak Gymnasium, improving their record to 18-4 on the season. It wasn’t just any other NESCAC win for Gromacki, however. The victory stood as the 600th in his illustrious coaching career. To make the accomplishment even better, Gromacki, 52, became the fastest head coach – men’s or women’s – in Division 1, 2 or 3, to reach that milestone in NCAA history.

As he posed for a picture on the court with his team following the win, each player holding up six fingers, his mind raced back to his long coaching journey – starting at St. Lawrence University as a wide-eyed 26-year old, finding a two-year assistant gig at Division 1 Temple looking to climb the ranks, then choosing to return to Division 3 to lead Hamilton to its most successful season in program history at the time.

And, finally, the decision he made to return home in the 2007 offseason.

“It’s going by fast, but I just really enjoy coaching with the type of players I’ve coached over the years,” Gromacki said. “I appreciate the support I’ve had from administration at all three schools I’ve coached at to get my wins. Going to the gym every day, being in the gym with my players – the accomplishments are great. But being around the groups I’ve coached, creating those memories, is even more important to me.”

During his first year on the sidelines at Amherst, Gromacki coached the Mammoths to a 27-3 record and brought them to their first-ever NCAA tournament. To get there, Amherst won its first NESCAC title. It was truly a year of firsts, and remains one of Gromacki’s favorite years at the institution.

“That first year was a lot of fun with that group I had,” Gromacki said. “I can remember down in Florida we played in a tournament, we played in a game we had in the bag, and then it slipped away and we should’ve lost. Then we threw a long pass that was supposed to go to someone else, but our center caught it, turned around and flipped up a 3 that went in at the buzzer. That changed our trajectory that season. That group was tremendous.”

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Next came the start of the dynasty.

From 2009 to 2013, Amherst made it to five consecutive NCAA Division 3 Final Fours, and Gromacki helped the Mammoths win their first of three national championships in 2011.

Gromacki was quick to credit a friend for helping him during his early days with the purple and white. Having someone – who would be a future Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee – with double the experience he had just next door from his office helped Gromacki get his feet wet at Amherst.

“Coach [David] Hixon helped me out a lot here with everything I’ve done,” Gromacki said. “He used to give me plays, and even now he still does. His office was right next to mine, so we could just walk in each day and shoot the breeze – talk about anything. The knowledge he has about basketball really helped me out in a lot of areas. He’s been helping me for a long time, even before I got to Amherst.”

The second and third D3 crowns came in 2017 and 2018 in the most dominating of fashions – going undefeated across the two seasons en route to cutting down the nets.

While he said both felt as great as the first title, those two meant a little bit more given he and his wife Miki’s children, Derek and Katie, were old enough to be right there by his side.

“Family is everything to me, and I have a great, supportive wife that’s been there pretty much all of my time at Amherst,” Gromacki said. “I remember that 2017 championship, we went on the court to cut the net and my son was there with me. There were a ton of photos all over of my son cutting down the net with me. Then the next year when we won, my daughter was up there, too, and they were both in the picture. They’ve meant a lot to me, just being there for it all. It’s great having them be part of it all.”

Gromacki doesn’t view “basketball coach” as his occupation. He genuinely enjoys being around the game, and, most importantly, his players. Over the course of his 17 seasons and counting patrolling the sidelines of LeFrak, Gromacki has encountered countless players that make his job as special as it is.

“We’ve had a great group of players here at Amherst that have made it really fun; it doesn’t feel like a job,” Gromacki said. “Like I said, it goes by fast, but I appreciate every day walking in that gym – just having fun with the team and trying to help everyone get better so we can win even more games.”

Three national titles, nine Final Fours, eight NESCAC titles, two WBCA National Coach of the Year (2010, 2017) awards, five D3Hoops.com New England Coach of the Year awards and six NESCAC Coach of the Year awards later, his devotion to winning is the same – if not higher than it’s ever been.

“I’ve got a lot of people congratulating me, but I was ready to come back in to the next practice and really prepare for the next game,” Gromacki said. “That’s what I’ve been thinking about.”

Amherst has a pair of road games to close out the regular season this weekend, traveling to Maine for matchups with Colby on Friday and Bowdoin on Saturday. The NESCAC tourney is set to begin Feb. 17.