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The coaching Pauls: Husband/wife duo guiding female Engineers into future

Jan. 19—When Devrinn Paul accepted the head-coaching position for women's basketball at Rose-Hulman last June, he planned to have two assistant coaches.

One ended up being Alison McCarthy, who had coached at the high school level for 19 years, including stints with girls and boys in Kentucky and Ohio.

Paul's other choice was a little simpler.

All he had to do was ask his wife, Gabrielle Gibson-Paul, because coaching together had been their dream for years.

So far, the Engineers are 8-8 overall and 5-4 in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference heading into Saturday's 1 p.m. home game against Bluffton inside Hulbert Arena.

"Basketball is our lives," Gibson-Paul replied when asked if she and Devrinn first met through the sport.

"We actually met at the Women's [Division I] Final Four in Nashville, Tenn., in 2014. I had always gone down there with my Assumption University teammates [from her playing days in the early 2010s]."

"I was coaching at that time at Marshall University [as an assistant]," Devrinn Paul recalled. "A lot of my friends are coaches, so one of my friends was there [at the Women's Final Four]. At the time, she was the head coach at Weber State."

For those who didn't know, a lot of coaches gather at the men's and women's Final Fours to hang out and network, perhaps meeting new connections that could lead to future job opportunities.

"So we were out at the same place and I saw [Gabrielle]," Devrinn continued.

Through that mutual friend/acquaintance, matchmaker magic ensued.

"We clicked right away," Gibson-Paul emphasized. "He asked me if I wanted a drink and I said, 'No, I'll get you a drink.' We kinda like fought [jokingly] over that. Then he winded up leaving his [business] card there."

"Ever since then, we've been together," Devrinn noted.

They dated for five years — long distance for the first two — before marrying in 2019 at Woodbury, N.Y.

"My wife was born and raised in Long Island [where Woodbury is located]," Devrinn explained. "We lived in Long Island for five years."

During that span, they coached an AAU eighth-grade girls team together, which triggered conversations about coaching together at a higher level. Even after they moved to Greensboro, N.C., they thought coaching the same college team would be a partnership that would allow them to thrive as coaches and be together more often at the same time.

In the middle of their combo-coach planning, but not negatively affecting it at all, they had a daughter — Summer, who is now 2.

"She's been in the gym since the first month she was born," Gibson-Paul said with a chuckle.

"She's an athlete," Mr. Paul chimed in.

Meanwhile, basketball staffs continued to change around the country and an opening occurred at Rose after longtime coach Jon Prevo retired in December 2022.

Devrinn Paul survived the interview process and got the job. It was time for the Pauls to pack up and move to Terre Haute.

"It wasn't something that we pre-orchestrated," Devrinn said about whether his wife had to be an assistant or not.

"I knew I would need a great staff. Obviously, when you're coming in, you're trying to build something that is going to be special. You want to get people around you that's going to have the same vision and the same mindset."

McCarthy was his first hire. But there was still one more empty space on the bench, so to speak.

"I knew we needed another piece," Devrinn Paul reflected. "We needed somebody who could really relate to the players and somebody who could help them with their player development.

"Obviously, with my wife's experience as a basketball trainer and as a Hall of Fame player [at Assumption]..."

So how is the Paul partnership progressing in practices and games so far?

"It's been going great," Devrinn insisted. "For us, it's an amazing experience. This is something that we prayed for, to be able to do it at this level together. This is something that we always wanted for our family. ... We're thankful that it happened."

"We work well together," Gabrielle added, "because the areas that he's great in, I'm not. And vice versa. So we really complement each other very well."

Both agreed that McCarthy is the defensive specialist on the staff, causing both to laugh because of how simultaneously they stated it.

"I bring the energy to the girls," Gibson-Paul assessed. "Like during warmups, I try to get their minds right, making sure they're amped for the game. I tell them little things just to get them going. As a former athlete, I feel like I know how to relate to them."

"I definitely think the X's and O's are a specialty of mine," Devrinn said. "I also feel like the connection between the players and the staff, helping everybody to understand where we're going and what it's going to take to get there and getting people to just trust the process [is another specialty].

"I really like to show them exactly what we're doing and why we're doing that."

"We listen to each other very well," Gibson-Paul added. "We've actually never got in an argument."

An obvious follow-up question to all of this is, how much basketball discussion do the Pauls carry home after a practice or game is over?

"We love what we do [as coaches]," Gabrielle pointed out. "So we talk about it all the time ... because we talk about ways that we can get better.

"It's no big deal because we're not screaming or yelling. Sometimes it'll just come at different times. We could be washing the dishes or something."

When not coaching or talking basketball, the Pauls enjoy testing the finest cuisines that Terre Haute has to offer.

"We love The Terminal [Public House restaurant located downtown]," Gibson-Paul said. "We love our Taco Tequila's [restaurant] too."

Regarding campus life, the Pauls appreciate all that Rose-Hulman offers as well.

"Just the community here, it's like a family atmosphere," Gabrielle said. "It's really amazing. Everybody is who they say they are. They're happy all the time. It's an amazing place."

As for job quality, the Pauls would likely give Rose-Hulman an A+.

"God answered our prayers," Gibson-Paul proclaimed. "So we are thankful and grateful to be in this position right now."