Basketball coach gets Knighted

Courtney Scrib

If you want to move up in this world, it is imperative that you know the right people. These are the people who take you under their wing and help you get your foot in the door. They introduce you to workings of an organization and make you feel like a part of their family. When you are searching for your passion, they help you find it; when you are unsure of your potential, they make sure you realize it. It is these individuals to whom you are forever indebted.

Last year I was fortunate enough to meet such a person when I crossed paths with Coach Fred Hill.

Before sending in the letter of intention to attend Villanova, my uncle, who coaches high school boys basketball in northern New Jersey, mentioned that he knew one of the men’s basketball coaches. I cannot say that was the sole reason why I ended up choosing to come here, but since Texas was home for me at the time (translation: no weekend trips home), I felt better knowing that there would be at least one more familiar faces on campus.

Two months of persistent nagging from my family passed until I finally e-mailed Coach Hill and arranged a time to meet him in the Pavilion. After a few wrong turns in the maze of a building known as Jake Nevin, I eventually found my way to the Men’s Basketball Office.

The season had just started, and that day happened to be Media Preview Day, where news reporters and television stations are allowed to watch and interview the coaches and players.

When I first saw Coach Hill, he was on the sideline watching another northern New Jersey native, Mike Nardi, shoot. At that time, Hill had been an assistant coach with the team for two years and had just been promoted to the position of associate head coach.

Ironically, a couple days later I was assigned to interview and write an article about him for The Villanovan’s annual Basketball Preview. What I remember most about talking with him about his new role was how unaffected he was by the raise in status. He was incredibly honest and genuine, never once making me doubt the sincerity of his words. Although he said he felt honored, he emphasized that no matter what title he was given, his main responsibility was to the team and to making the players and program better.

Throughout his four years at the University, Hill has played a key role in creating and continuing the success of the men’s basketball program. He arrived here in April of 2001 from Seton Hall University after having been a part of a staff that led the Pirates to the Sweet 16 of the 2001 NCAA Tournament. That same year Hill also succeeded in securing the top recruiting class in the nation.

The Verona, N.J. native’s 20 years of coaching experience and vast wealth of knowledge of the Big East immediately caught Jay Wright’s attention. As the newly appointed head coach, Wright was looking to rebuild the program and knew that in order to be accomplish that, he would need the best-and that started with the coaches.

It would not take long for Wright and the other members of the Villanova basketball community to realize how great of an influence Hill would have on the program.

In his office, there is a framed photograph of Jason Fraser, Randy Foye, Allan Ray and Curtis Sumpter when they were freshmen hanging on the wall. That picture in itself serves as a testament to Hill’s accomplishments since it was largely due to his recruiting efforts why those four highly-acclaimed players decided to play for Villanova.

On Wednesday, Wright officially announced that Hill had resigned from his position and would be returning to his home state as the associate head basketball coach of Rutgers. That will make him the second member of his family to be hired by the Scarlet Knights. His father, Fred Hill, Sr., has been the head baseball coach there since 1984.

While his departure may have caught people off guard, especially after considering the tremendous season the team had this year and the hype that has been circulating recently about next season, Wright and the rest of the Villanova basketball family are standing behind his decision.

“He deserves it,” Nardi, who first met Hill when he was 12 years old, said. “We’re going to miss him and what he brought-his coaching skills, lessons and energy. But we’re all happy for him.”

This ending is especially bittersweet since it involves saying goodbye to someone for whom I have the most respect and gratitude. As sad as I am to see Coach Hill move on and as much as I am going to miss having him around to keep me grounded in my Jersey roots, I know that he could not pass up this opportunity.

He opened up the door for me; the least I can do is support him as one opens up for him.