Buccilla officially becomes ‘the guy’ at TU

John Hill recruited Jerry Buccilla, then hired him twice – first as Heidelberg’s women’s basketball coach when Hill was the athletic director there, then as his own assistant at Tiffin University.

So few know Buccilla better. When asked about Buccilla replacing him as the Dragons’ men’s basketball coach, Hill was direct.

“I can’t wait to be a fan,” he said.

After four years as Hill’s right-hand man on the bench, and about a month with the “interim” tag on his title, Buccilla is, in the words of Tiffin University Athletic Director Lonny Allen, “the guy.”

Buccilla, a former star basketball player at Heidelberg who is in that school’s athletic hall of fame, was named head coach, a move largely expected judging by the previous comments of those involved.

Buccilla was named interim coach last month when Hill resigned to take another position at the school.

Now, the qualifier is gone. It’s Buccilla’s program.

“It was the right fit to continue taking the program forward,” said Buccilla, who will be taking his first men’s basketball head coaching job. “I have been a head coach previously so I know what those roles are, those responsibilities are.”

Before coming to TU with Hill, Buccilla was a boys coach for Fisher Catholic High School in Lancaster.

As Hill’s associate head coach, Buccilla was involved in all aspects of the program. He was very involved during the games as well, at times joining Hill for his postgame interviews.

“Jerry’s strength, and it always has been, is his ability to recruit,” Hill said. “He has great connections, he has great enthusiasm.”

Tiffin went 11-17 last season, but that was with a team that had only one true returning starter in star guard Joe Graessle. TU used a number of newcomers in prominent roles including promising freshmen Eric Roby, Khaleal McCormick and Jonathan Sutherlin.

In Graessle, Buccilla will get a senior that is coming off a season in which he was in the top 10 in points and steals in Division II.

“Joe did a tremendous job from a leadership role,” Buccilla said. “We do have a really, really nice group back with experience now. We signed some very complementary players as well.”

Buccilla said he was “grateful” to Allen and University President Paul Marion for giving him the chance to lead the program.

“I’m very fortunate to be given this responsibility,” he said.

Allen said he had confidence Buccilla would have success, continuing what Hill did as head coach.

“He’s ready, and I’m really looking forward to it,” Allen said. “John did a great job of getting us back on the map. He did exactly what we needed to do, got us back to where we were actually a contender.”

Hill said Buccilla has always been dedicated to his craft, dating back to when the latter played for Hill at Heidelberg.

“Jerry as a freshman was a difficult individual to coach,” Hill said. “By the time he was a senior, he was a captain and a leader and a coach on the floor. He made my job easier.”

Hill said he’s pleased to see his former player succeed him.

“I am happy,” Hill said. “Jerry’s sacrificed a lot in last four years.”