It hasn't taken long for Gary Stewart to right the ship that is Stevenson basketball and set it on a course toward long-term prosperity. In his first five seasons, Stewart, a veteran head coach with nearly a quarter-century of experience at the helm, has established the Mustangs as one of the top programs in the MAC Commonwealth.
A highly acclaimed leader amongst his peers, Stewart enters his sixth season as head basketball coach at Stevenson in 2016-17. Stewart, who owns the unique distinction of having served as a head coach at each NCAA level, has established himself as one of the nations best architects of collegiate basketball programs.
Named the second head men’s basketball coach in school history on June 28, 2011, Stewart wasted little time in making an immediate impact. The California native quickly made himself at home on the east coast by leading the Mustangs to victories over opponents from six different states (Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia). The biggest 2011-12-season highlight came on February 8, 2011 when, Stevenson beat NCAA tournament bound York College and legendary coach, Jeff Gamber 75-70.
During his tenure, Stewart has led the Mustangs to back-to-back ECAC Championships in 2014 and 2015, winning a school record 21 games in each of those seasons. In five seasons, Stewart has mentored nine all-conference selections in addition to the 2012-13 Commonwealth Conference Rookie of the Year. He has guided Stevenson to the MAC Commonwealth tournament in each of their first four seasons in the league.
In 2015-16, the Mustangs knocked off eventual top-seed Alvernia to earn a spot in the MAC Commonwealth tournament on the season's last day, earning the No. 4 seed. Stevenson had a pair of All-Conference performers, with senior Erik Fisher repeating as a First Team selection.
In 2014-15, the Mustangs made an appearance in the Commonwealth Conference championship game for the second-straight season. Junior Christian Roberts became the third Mustangs under Stewart to score 1,000 career points.
In 2013-14, Stewart was named the Commonwealth Conference Coach of the Year. He guided a team that finished with nine wins and a fifth place finish in the conference to 13 conference wins and a share of the regular season title. During that season, the Mustangs posted three wins over top-20 teams, including a sweep of conference foe Messiah.
In 2012-13, Stewart led Stevenson into a new era as a member of the MAC Commonwealth Conference. Wasting little time in forcing his MAC Commonwealth brethren to take notice of a new combatant joining the battle, Stewart guided the Mustangs to the fourth best season in school history by orchestrating the third best regular season turnaround in Division III.
Generally regarded as one of college basketball’s best teachers and strategists, Stewart directed Stevenson, who was picked to finish last, and coached the Mustangs to their first post-season appearance since 2007. Thus, Stevenson University became the fourth different school Stewart has led to the post-season.
In 2012, Stewart founded and directed the Hoopsville National Invitational Classic. The on-campus event is the largest gathering of college basketball teams to start the season in all divisions.
In 2014, Stewart was named to the Board of Advisors for The Take Back The Night Foundation whose mission as a charitable 501(c)3 foundation is to end sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual abuse and all other forms of sexual violence.
During that same year, Stewart received one of the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ most prestigious awards as part of the AT&T NABC Guardians of the Game Awards Show. Guardians of the Game is a national awareness and education program of the NABC. The goal of the program is to focus attention on the positive aspects of basketball and the role coaches play in the lives of student-athletes, in addition to the contributions coaches make to their communities. The Guardians of the Game program, emphasizes our core values: advocacy, education, leadership and service.
Described as a “fierce competitor” on the court, Stewart has built a strong reputation for the academic achievement of his student-athletes while mentoring them off the court. He has had numerous student-athletes receive institution, conference and national accolades in regards to academics.
Prior to becoming the head basketball coach at Stevenson, Stewart spent eight years as head basketball coach at UC Davis. He guided the program through the university’s transition from Division II to Division I membership. Taking over a team that finished three games under .500 the previous season, he guided the Aggies to an 18-9 record. A lasting memory came during the third year of the D-I reclassification when UC Davis upset PAC-10 power Stanford, 64-58.
In all, UC Davis averaged double-figure wins throughout the transition period while winning more games than any other four-year transition program in college basketball history.
Stewart’s ability to make an immediate impact did not start at UC Davis. It’s a pattern of success that has followed him throughout his 20-year career as a head coach. In his first coaching stint, he guided the University of La Verne, his alma mater, from last place to first in a matter of three seasons. He currently ranks second all-time in school history in wins.
He remains the only coach in La Verne history to lead his team to a Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) title, a feat he accomplished 3 times. A truly remarkable accomplishment considering, three NBA head coaches, Mike Budenholzer, (Atlanta Hawks), Mike Dunlap (Charlotte Bobcats) and Gregg Popovich (San Antonio Spurs) where in the SCIAC. Stewart’s 1992-93 team made an appearance in the NCAA “sweet 16”. His last six seasons at La Verne, the Leopards were ranked nationally or regionally in each year, making the only time in school history La Verne had garnered such recognition. Stewart still holds the highest winning percentage at La Verne.
Following his tenure at La Verne, Stewart worked his magic again when he took over at Cal State Hayward (now Cal State East Bay). Hired to resurrect a program that had posted a 22-79 record in four seasons prior to his arrival, Stewart engineered one of the best turnarounds in college basketball. Again, he guided a team from last place to first place – this time in just two seasons. He led the Pioneers to a school record for wins in conference (a record he holds at La Verne as well), while capturing a share of the Northern California Athletic Conference (NCAC) title. For his part, Stewart was named NCAC Coach of the Year and was a nominee for District Coach of the Year. Furthermore, the Oakland Tribune selected him as the Bay Area College Coach of the Year for all NCAA divisions.
Stewart’s first coaching job came as a graduate assistant at Long Beach State. While at Long Beach, he coached Morlan Wiley, an NBA draft selection of the Dallas Mavericks. He has also worked on the basketball staffs at UC Santa Barbara (were he was recognized by The Dunk Publication as one of the top assistant coaches at the Division I level in the nation), Washington State and UCLA. While with UCLA, Stewart worked with NBA Players, Cedric Bozeman, Atlanta Hawks, Ryan Hollins, Boston Celtics, Jason Kapono, Los Angeles Lakers and Dijon Thompson, New York Knicks.
Stewart received his bachelor’s of science degree in physical education in 1984 and captured the SCIAC ‘s Ted Ducey award, bestowed upon one senior athlete who best exemplifies outstanding achievement in academics, athletics, leadership and sportsmanship. In addition, he was selected as the recipient of the Anthony P. Scafani, University of La Verne Sportsman of the year award.
Stewart obtained his master’s of arts degree in education in the spring of 1995 from the University of La Verne. In 2002, he was honored as a distinguished graduate during the university’s 75th diamond jubilee festivities while later he was inducted into the La Verne Athletics Hall of Fame in 2009.
Throughout his career, Stewart has also garnered awards as the Outstanding Young Men of America Award (1984), Who’s Who among Black Americans (1989) and Who’s who Among Raising Young Americas (1990).
Additionally, he has prominent involvement internationally. Stewart worked in accreditation for ABC Television at the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
In 2009, Stewart was part of a staff, which included Bob McKillop, Davidson (head coach), Anthony Grant, Oklahoma City Thunder, John Thompson III, Georgetown and Steve Donahue, Penn who led the USA Basketball U18 team in the FIBA Europe Championship. He also led UC Davis on a 10-day European tour, which featured stops in Paris, Lyon, Montreux, Nice and Monacco.
Stewart remains active in the community. He is currently or has been involved with The City of Hope Cancer Center, The East Oakland Youth Foundation, The ALS Foundation, Special Olympics and the United Way. He developed the Free Throws For Heroes program for 9/11 relief and, also helped the Red Cross with relief efforts in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. He is a member of the Team Up For 1 Board of Directors, an organization that enhances the quality of life for children with terminal illness by matching them with sports teams at every level.
Stewart was twice honored with the UC Davis Community Service Award and, in 2008, the Diversity and Principles of Community Achievement Recognition Award. In four seasons in which UC Davis was eligible for awards, his Aggie basketball team received three consecutive Big West Conference Team Sportsmanship Awards.
He also has extensive experience as administrative leader in the field. In 1986, he worked in event management at the men’s basketball West Region NCAA Tournament in Long Beach, California. He currently serves on the editorial advisory board for “Winning Hoops” magazine.
Stewart also currently sits on the Hall of Fame Committee for the Small College Basketball website and serves on its Bevo Francis Player of the Year Committee.
Stewart’s service also includes being a current member of the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Board of Directors. He serves on the Board with other notable college basketball coaches, Tom Izzo, Michigan State; John Calipari, Kentucky; Bill Self, Kansas; Brad Stevens, Butler; Mike Bray, Notre Dame; Jaime Dixon, Pittsburgh; Johnny Dawkins, Stanford. He served on the NCAA Division I advisory Committee – west region and was a founding member of the NCAA Division I Ethics Coalition. He currently is a member of the NABC Academic Committee, NABC Ethics Committee and the collegeinsider.com post-season tournament advisory committee.
In August, 2015, Stewart was the only small college coach to participate in NABC Operation Hardwood as the program visited U.S. troops serving overseas in Kuwait. Stewart traveled with current analysts and former coaches Steve Lavin, Pete Gillen and Dino Gaudio and current Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos.
A noted clinician, Stewart has spoken at numerous camps and clinics including the NCAA Final Four Youth Education through Sports (YES) clinics. Stewart is also the Director of the NABC Division I College All-Star game. He has served as an assistant coach in the all-star game and has worked with some of the games best coaches including Basketball Hall of Famers, Jim Boeheim, Jud Healthcote and Jim Calhoun. In addition, he has also assisted National Championship coaches Tom Izzo and Gary Williams.