Hill comes home: Former Boone Grove three-sport star returns to his high school as boys hoops coach
PORTER TOWNSHIP -- As Dean Hill began to realize that coaching and teaching were in his future, the former three-sport star at Boone Grove pictured himself back at his high school.
"My plan after college was, I'll get into Boone, whenever (Matt) McKay retires, I can slide into both of those positions," Hill said.
It took a few years and a few other stops, the 2013 BG alum is back home again, succeeding his former basketball coach and P.E/Health teacher in both of those capacities.
It's impossible to fill (McKay's) shoes, but Dean's stepping in and doing an unbelievable job in every aspect of caring for the whole kid," Athletics Director Josh Russell said. "We love to bring back Boone Grove kids to Boone Grove. Even more important so far than being a great coach, he's been unbelievable in the building. He's been a huge culture guy. He's seen every single team compete. He's showing out and not just for his players. He's cheering on his P.E. kids as well."
Hill was the quarterback on BG's first football team and part of McKay's sectional champion team as a senior, then played baseball in the spring. After a year at IU-Kokomo, he came back to the area to finish school and was on his dad Bryan's staff in 2016-7 when McKay stepped down as coach, only to return a year later. Hill also spent a semester at River Forest before landing an assistant girls basketball position at Morgan Township.
"I interviewed here a couple times for different positions," he said. "I really thought I would end up being Morgan's (boys) coach when (Eric) Braden left. I didn't think he was going to leave as quickly as he did. They hired (Kevin) Krieger. They were like, we don't know how long Kevin is going to do it. We want you to stay and be the coach after him. I was like, we'll see what happens. I really did love it at Morgan. If I had gotten the job, I would've been like, no, I'm here."
While it became fairly well known that McKay planned to retire after last year, Hill didn't begin making plans until it was official. He was formally hired in early June as a teacher and coach, becoming just the seventh coach of the program, dating back to 1950.
"I wanted to be the coach, but I also needed to be here school-wise," he said. "I wasn't going to be coach here and still be at Morgan. It ended up working out well, timing-wise, with life stuff, moving out and getting married (to wife London)."
Drew Simatovich will be Boone's JV coach while Bryan Hill will be the varsity assistant.
"I asked him when I applied, so if I get it, are you going to stay on?" Dean said. "He's like, absolutely, I'd be honored to. That's a pretty cool answer."
Bryan coached Dean in some capacity in all of his sports, dating back to middle school.
"My junior year was his first year on (the basketball) staff," Dean said. "He'd coached middle school, Ian McKay's group. Baseball, he started with (Rollie) Thill when I was in fifth grade. A lot of the kids respond to him because they know him a little more than they know me so far. The kids are learning how to navigate the whole thing, who to go to in what situations."
Since he is running many of the same things McKay did, the transition has not been dramatic for the players. Save for his dad's one year as coach, McKay had coached Boone since the 1992-93 season.
"It's almost like they don't have a brand new voice, it's like a little newer," Hill said. "Now the coach just calls you bro. I'll ask (my dad) like, do you think this or this? He's like, whatever you want, whatever you need. I'm like, I know it's whatever I need, but I want your input, too. A lot of the paperwork stuff, to have another varsity coach on staff is super helpful. It's enjoyable."
After his hiring, Hill thought back to a special moment at the Porter County Conference Sportsmanship Banquet a few years ago when he was in first season with Morgan's girls.
"They have those autograph books and everybody was coming to get autographs," he said. "I was like, you guys are so weird, but sure, I'll sign it. I went over to McKay and said this is the only autograph I want and I put the book in front of him. He puts, 'To the next BG boys coach, Matt McKay.
"We've talked a little bit," Hill said. "We've always been close. He said you are not passing my tenure. McKay's the greatest. His name should be on the court at Boone."
Hill will make his debut Nov. 23 versus Hobart.
"I love working here," Hill said. "(Clay) Corman is such a good principal. (Jim) Rosinia and those guys are great. My best friend (Russell)'s the athletic director. Sometimes I'm sitting there, I'm like, wow, next month, I can't believe those will be my guys."