Changing the culture within the men’s basketball program at B.C.’s Simon Fraser University is job number one for new head coach Virgil Hill.
After establishing a dominant program at a high school in Vancouver, following seven seasons at the helm of the basketball program at Sudbury’s Laurentian University, the Sarnia native has taken over as head coach at the suburban Vancouver institution.
The Northern grad, who played four seasons with the SFU Clan men’s basketball program in the 1990’s, inherits an NCAA Division II program that has struggled to a 38-90 record since moving up from the smaller National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) five seasons ago. Of those victories, only 15 have been in conference, including six this past season.
Hill, now 45, who won several city and regional titles with the Vikings as well as an OFSSA silver medal in the mid to late 1980’s, says work is already underway to improve the program.
“If we change the culture and the process, that will in time affect our outcome,” he promised, noting that he will abandon the club’s high-octane offence in favour of a team approach with strong rebounding and tough defence.
He has already met with each of his players individually to get a feel for where they’re at in their lives, so that he can better distribute a six-figure scholarship allotment by the July 1 deadline.
Last year’s roster included players from Canada, the U.S., Australia, the Netherlands and Senegal, and Hill suspects that mix to continue because of the appeal of both playing against American competition and the university’s location.
“SFU has a national reach and an international reach because of the fact that Vancouver is Vancouver,” he said.
As for his time at Northern under head coach John Thrasher, Hill says he didn’t realize at the time how good those teams were.
“That was a special group,” he said. “We had a pretty successful run.”