Head Coach Bob Gillette

Current Team
University of Rhode Island Rowing
Past Teams
Connecticut College, University of Rhode Island Rowing, USA National Team

Bob Gillette (’79) has been instrumental in the development of rowing at the University of Rhode Island since his first practice of freshman year some forty years ago!

A native of New Jersey, Gillette stumbled upon rowing at URI  like most rowers and immediately fell in love with the sport. Little did he know that crew would help shape his life into what it is today while taking him across the globe.

There were many ups and downs in Gillette’s college crew career. During his freshman year, the lightweight men’s 8 won a bronze medal at the Dad Vail college national championships. After that, Gillette, still a freshman, moved up to varsity.

But the program was dealt a harsh blow when the boathouse on Narrow River burned to the ground the summer between Gillette’s sophomore and junior years. Through grit, determination and ingenuity, Gillette was instrumental in helping URI Crew fundraise enough money to rebuild the boathouse and collect new equipment to keep the team afloat (literally). 

Once out of school Bob returned to the program he loved. This time he put down the oar and picked up the megaphone to try his hand at coaching. He was a natural! Within two years, Bob brought Rhody crew back to national prestige, earning hardware in both the male and female events at the New England Championship and Dad Vail Regattas.

In 1983, Gillette was named Head Coach of the US Women’s Lightweight team, the start of a series of assignments for the US Team. He coached heavyweight and lightweight men and women in both sweep and sculling boat classes up until the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

Gillette left to coach at Connecticut College after the 1984 season, but returned to coach at URI two more times in the 1990s.

“Each time I came back it was because the team was in need,’’ he said. “I think the coach had left on short notice, and I was around, so I jumped in to help on a short-term basis.”

Gillette returned to Rhode Island Crew in 2012 after a hiatus to focus on his family and his professional career. Since his return the team has seen exponential growth in numbers and success with four ACRA national championship titles in 2016 and 2017 combined, and multiple New England Championship medals including gold in the Men’s Novice 8+ (2016) and a bronze in the Men’s Varsity 8+ (2017).

Bob Gillette is the embodiment of dedication to a team, sport and organization. With his no excuse attitude and constant drive, the Rams of URI have become a nationally respected club with a bright future.