After two seasons as the Springfield boys basketball coach, John Hii won’t be returning next year.
“It was a surprise,” Hii said Saturday. “I’d be amiss to say I expected something like that given the track record of what’s happened.”
After winning a District 10-2A championship in Hii’s first season, the Bulldogs had just one senior on this year’s team in Collin Hayden and went 5-27.
“Maybe I should be embarrassed about the situation, but the reality of it is I’m not,” said Hii, who will finish the school year as a physical science teacher. “I’m actually really proud of the work that I’ve done here. I got to be a part of district championship team. I got voted as (district) Coach of the Year from my peers. We made it through a tough season in which we were really, really young, and through all those things, I got to see a lot of young men grow up.”
Springfield principal Spencer Harris said the move was made because of philosophical differences in the direction of the program.
“He’s a really good guy,” Harris said of Hii. “He’s a young guy. He’s a good person. He really is. Just the direction of the program philosophically, we just weren’t on the same page, and that led to needing to make a change.”
Harris said the search for a new coach will begin after the Mardi Gras holiday.
Springfield notched a 65-49 home win over French Settlement on Jan. 17, but lost their last 12 games of the season. The turning point in the team’s season may have come when Hayden severely sprained his ankle in a 49-45 loss at St. Thomas Aquinas on Jan. 28, forcing Hayden to miss the remainder of the season.
“I do truly believe if he doesn’t get hurt, we win a few games down the stretch, because you only have one senior in the first place, and he’s such a hard-nosed player and he brings so much more to that team than basketball," Hii said. "To have him go down was just back-breaking for us in the situation that we were in."
Hii thanked the Springfield administration for the opportunity and said he was proud of what the program accomplished during his tenure.
“First off, I would like for them to remember the discipline and the character that I brought, or that I had a part in bringing to these young men’s lives,” Hii said. “I saw young men grow up, and it was a fantastic process to see. I saw, through one means or another, young men grow up and take ownership of themselves and their situations, and that was fantastic.
“Number two, I mean who doesn’t want to be remembered as a winner? I would like to be remembered as the guy that brought the first district championship to Springfield in the last 10 years. Looking at MaxPreps and things like that, it appears that we had – last year – the most wins in 10 years … Last year was one of the most successful in terms of basketball wins that they’ve had in a long time.
“I would like to be thirdly remembered for developing players,” Hii continued. “I had a player who was basically unrecruited as a junior, who is now on a Division I basketball roster (Bryce Johnson at Southeastern Louisiana). There was a guard on last year’s team (Ti'Shoin Thompson), who did not play basketball his sophomore or junior years and by the end of the year, was averaging a double-double essentially. I’ve had guys come in who didn’t know or hadn’t played a lot of basketball but understand the game much better now. If I’m remembered for those three things – changing lives, being a winner and developing players, then I’m OK with that.”