ST. PAULS — Coaching has always been a dream for Matt Hill.
That’s why, when St. Pauls opened the application process for a new boys basketball coach this year, Hill was quick to put in an application. The surprise came when he found out he had received the job.
“I was really excited,” Hill said. “Basketball is something I really love. It was something I always wanted to do and just couldn’t wait to get started and meet all the guys.”
Hill, who was hired and received board approval in early June, will be looking to turn around a St. Pauls program that has struggled in recent years to have consistency on the basketball court.
The hiring process is never an easy one, but St. Pauls Athletic Director Jeff Fipps said they had a defined idea of who they were looking for when they opened the hiring process.
“We were looking for someone to come in and teach our kids the fundamentals of the game,” Fipps said. “We had several applicants from this area, but I think he knows how to motivate and produce success for our kids.”
Building a winning culture is a tall order for anyone, much less a coach moving into his first varsity coaching job, but Hill and Fipps are confident his background as an assistant at West Bladen under Travis Pait has prepared him for the test.
“Travis has done a great job in getting me prepared for taking on a roll of head coach,” he said. “I was constantly put in situations to get ready for the next level.”
Those situations included anything from scouting teams the varsity would be playing all the way to running team practices. In all, Hill has built up seven years of coaching experience since he graduated from West Bladen in 2006.
“I’ve been around a pretty good group of coaches,” Hill said. ” I played and coached for Ken Carlson who coached at East and West Bladen.”
The past experiences in this region are something that drew him to the St. Pauls job when it opened up.
“St. Pauls was a big rival of ours as a player when I was at West Bladen,” Hill said. “I knew it was a sports school and I thought that was a great fit for me and a great opportunity.”
Since getting the job, Hill has been working to prepare for the upcoming season.
“I’ve been working with the kids now since they approved me,” he said. “The thing I have liked most so far is the eagerness and willingness to work. I haven’t had to beg them to come out.”
With options for both summer football and basketball available, it can be tough for athletes attend both workouts, but Hill said he doesn’t want to feel competitive with the football team when it comes to bringing out players to practice.
“We work together, so days they don’t have workouts I will have the gym open,” Hill said. “So far, the kids have done a good job of going to both.”
While Hill admits the team is inexperienced, he said there is plenty of excitement on both sides of the spectrum for the upcoming year as they look to turn around from a 3-19 record in Travis Lemanski’s final season.
“The kids are extremely excited about basketball and working extremely hard,” Hill said.
With the way things have been going in the first few weeks, Hill said he is confident he made the right choice.
“They have made me feel welcome. I really like the area and I could see myself staying there for a while,” Hill said. “Honestly, I was only going to take the job that I thought was a good job, and St. Pauls was a good fit for me.”
As for the future, Hill isn’t focused on the next step up the ladder of coaching success.
“For me, when you talk about success, it doesn’t depend on the size of the school,” he said. “If you’re trying to move up the ladder, you’re not putting the kids first and you’re in the wrong profession.”