"I love the guy, and I'm so proud of the job he's done," says D-backs CEO/president Derrick Hall. "He won't say it, but I will: He deserves to be NL Manager of the Year. I just told him that, in fact."
It was Hall who tabbed Gibson as manager last July 1 after the dismissal of GM Josh Byrnes and manager A.J. Hinch.
Gibson had long wanted to manage, but he did not immediately jump at the offer, according to Hall. Instead, he asked if he could first come to Hall's house to talk.
"I was blown away with the discussion we had," Hall said. "He obviously had thought about this for a long time and kept it inside as to how he felt we should improve as a team, as a culture, as a clubhouse, and he's taken that plan now and rolled it out this year, and look at the results."
Gibson's priority was immediately apparent.
"The first thing out of his mouth was we've got to change the culture, and he asked, 'Will you allow me to?'" Hall said. "Of course I did."
Gibson spent the final three months of the 2010 season starting to implement his program, and he watched closely to see what players adapted to the new regimen and which ones never would be able to.
Not surprisingly, the roster underwent significant turnover during the offseason, and the results of the culture change have been clear.
"Our fans love him; they identify with him," Hall said. "Our players are fighting for him and have taken on his personality. You've seen it. He preaches it that every day we're going to grind it out for 27 outs, and these players know that now. They're on the top step, they're on the rails every game, just like he is. They're fighting for him, they're winning for him and that's what you need."
When Kevin Towers was named GM in late September, he spent a week with Gibson on the team's final road trip. The pair talked long into the nights about baseball philosophy, and even though they had no prior connection, Towers decided to remove the interim tag from Gibson's title.
"I think we established trust and respect for one another rather quickly, and we communicate very well together," Towers said. "He's somebody I have a lot of trust and faith in."
Whereas friction developed between Byrnes and former manager Bob Melvin in part because of Byrnes' desire to have input into the daily lineup, Towers and Gibson both share a similar philosophy when it comes to their roles.
"There should be a little give and take on both ends, but ultimately my job is to provide the product, and his job is to manage the product," Towers said. "I'm only going to give input when asked, when it comes to the product once it's out there. If I want his input on a trade or something, then I would go ask him. But there are certain times that my mind is pretty much made up about what we're going to do, and we do it."
Gibson and Towers put together a coaching staff that had plenty of big league experience. Bench coach Alan Trammell, hitting coach Don Baylor, pitching coach Charles Nagy and first-base coach Eric Young joined holdovers Matt Williams and Glenn Sherlock.
Gibson welcomed input from his staff, one of the many lessons he learned from Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson.
"I give them full authority to say what they've got to say to me," Gibson said. "I don't expect them to say, 'Oh, you're the manager, I have to kiss your butt.' I want to know if you feel something. That was a lot of Sparky. That's how he was. I'm trying to do the right thing. I want to get all the information I can get."
While the popular stereotype of Gibson is a fiery person who manages by hunches and is old school to the core, it is far from the truth.
Stop by the manager's office before a game and you'll find him with his laptop open, studying the numbers and that night's matchups.
"What most people don't know about Kirk Gibson is how intelligent he is," Hall said. "They don't realize just how intellectual and prepared he is. He's a strategist. He's a few steps ahead of most people. He's so committed to doing the job. I couldn't ask for any more out of Kirk Gibson, especially as a first year manager."