Hill steps down as TU?men’s coach
By Zach Baker
John Hill said he was tempted to stick around to get his 400th win.
But the 31-year coaching veteran said “it wouldn’t be fair.”
After four seasons as Tiffin University’s men’s basketball coach, Hill is resigning. The man who has won 393 basketball games over stints at both of his hometown’s universities isn’t leaving TU. He will become the school’s Associate Vice President of Development. Hill had been serving in that position on a part-time basis.
Jerry Buccilla, a former player for Hill at Heidelberg, who has been the Dragons’ associate head coach during Hill’s tenure, was named interim coach.
“I thought about it during the year this year, I knew it was time,” Hill said. “I’ve been a head coach for 31 years, total coaching probably 38 [years]. I came here to rebuild the program.”
Buccilla – who served as Heidelberg’s women’s basketball coach in the 1980s – is likely to be a full-time replacement for Hill. TU Athletic Director Lonny Allen said the school has not started a search for the new coach.
Allen was asked if he expected Buccilla to take over the program without the “interim” title.
“That’s what the hope is,” Allen said. “We’re just trying to work out terms with Jerry right now. This just happened today. We’re trying to cross our T’s, dot our I’s and make sure everyone has the best deal available.”
Allen praised Hill’s work in rebuilding the program after taking it over in 2009.
“It was almost dead, and John came in and did a great job getting our program back to being respectable,” Allen said.
When Hill took over the Dragons, the program had managed just 10 wins total over the previous three seasons.
Hill won just two games in his first season at TU, but even in that year it was obvious the program was going in a positive direction. In the final game of the ’09-10 season, Tiffin came within a point of defeating reigning national champion Findlay at the Gillmor Center.
The next year, Hill recruited a pair of cornerstone guards – transfer Karl Finley and Michigan high school star Joe Graessle. With those two players in the fold, Tiffin jumped to eight wins in Hill’s second season, and 15 in ’11-12.
With the graduation of Finley last year, TU struggled a bit this past season. Despite Graessle maturing into one of the best players in Division II, Tiffin’s young squad went 11-17. It still had a program-defining win – a 55-53 win over Findlay that broke the Oilers’ 81-game home GLIAC winning streak.
Buccilla will take over a team that will have Graessle back for his senior year, and a group of promising young players, including Jonathan Sutherlin, Khaleal McCormick and Eric Roby.
Hill will still be around, just not on the sideline.
“The timing is right,” he said.