If taking a new job and planning a move weren’t enough, new Springfield coach John Hii upped the ante just a bit – he’s also getting married in July.
“This is going to be a real busy summer,” Hii said.
Hii, who takes over after Blake Zito took the job as the Denham Springs High girls’ coach, will make his way to Springfield after coaching his alma mater, Cottage Hill Christian Academy in Mobile, Ala., last season. He led the team to a 9-20 record and a trip to the sub-regionals for the first time in four years. The program had three wins in the past three seasons heading into last season.
“It was a chance for me to come home, if you will,” he said of his one season at Cottage Hill. “It was a great opportunity, a great year, and I really enjoyed it.”
The six-year coaching veteran said he wouldn’t make the jump from Alabama to Louisiana if he didn’t plan on staying a while.
“I know they’ve had success in the past, and when I went to interview, I really liked the school, and the administration seemed to be really easy going and good to work with,” Hii said. “It was a pretty easy decision.
“Moving that far, I plan on staying for a good while and trying to build something that can be successful for the long term.”
The prospect of having that type of stability suits Springfield principal Spencer Harris just fine as the school has seen its share of coaching changes over the past few seasons.
“Everything just kind of fit,” Harris said. “I really like the fact that he’s a younger guy, but his long-term goals kind of fit with what we want to do here and I could see him being here long-term.
“I really felt that he was humble and grounded, and I really thought that he was a good fit for our kids and (would) be a good leader for him.”
A Southern Miss graduate, Hii also coached at Baker High in Mobile as well as Crenshaw Christian Academy in Luverne, Ala., where he was responsible for “all basketball activities – boys and girls.”
The boys team at Crenshaw Christian won a state championship in 2015 and advanced to the Final Four in 2016 while he helped turn around the girls’ team.
“Coaching boys and coaching girls are just two completely different things,” Hii said. “It’s basketball, but it might as well be two completely different sports. The game is just so much different between boys and girls. That’s actually why I’m doing this because I really wanted to go back on the boys’ side and coach the boys again. That’s what I like doing. That’s what I love doing. That’s really why I’m making this move.”
“Down the road it (coaching girls) may be something that I do again, just at this particular moment in time, I just wanted to get back on the boys’ side.”
Hii recently met with his new team to talk about his expectations, which focus on hard work, good attitude and a team concept.
“I know I saw some athletes in that room, so I’m really excited about what this next year could hold for us,” Hii said.
“I love basketball. It’s been my passion ever since I can remember, but basketball is always second. It is simply a vehicle to grow young people and to show them how to live life and to be productive citizens and to grow up through basketball.
“Two things that I always expect from my athletes is that they work hard and they have a good attitude. I’m a big believer in you control the things you can and the things you can’t control, you don’t worry about. You can always control how hard you work. You can always control your attitude.
“You cannot be a successful program if you do not have a good understanding of what team is.
“Once we understand how to work hard and once we understand to control the things we can and have a good attitude, winning just starts to happen, and the X’s and O’s become a lot easier when you have 12 players bought in ready to be there and ready to work hard.”
While he hasn’t gotten a chance to see the team on the court yet, Hii is hoping to install an up-tempo offense and rely on pressure defense. He knows the approach may change based on personnel.
“My theory is a good shot is better than no shot,” Hii said.
“Defensively, I like to run a very aggressive man to force turnovers to get into that up-tempo style. I have pressed before. I have run zone before. I’ve done at lot of things, but if I had to choose, it would be a half-court, pressure man just because a good man is hard to score again. Couple that with an up-tempo style, everybody gets a lot of touches, everybody gets to score a lot of baskets. It makes it fun for everybody.”
Hii, who wraps up school at Cottage Hill on May 25 and will arrive in Louisiana on May 28, said this summer will be key for the Bulldogs in terms of laying the basic foundation for the team.
“Summer is a great time to nail down those cornerstones – understanding that when they come to practice that this is important,” Hii said. “Practice is not something that just happens before a game. Practice is how you get better and you win games in practice. You don’t win games during the game, you just execute what you practiced.”
At the end of the season, Hii is hoping the Bulldogs can experience the feeling his Crenshaw Christian team has in 2015a.
“Always, always, the goal is to win the last (championship) game,” Hii said. “It makes it way more memorable when you win the last game. I can tell you that.”