TC Basketball Coaching Turnover

Photo from Diane Rossi

Three coaches in the span of three years is a recipe for confusion. Hill, Coleman, and Sullivan are names that have filled the head coaching position for the varsity basketball team. Over the last three basketball seasons, the team has had a new coach each year and has led them to both successful and disappointing seasons. The 2015-16 season ended well for the team with a record of 11-9 and made it to the Conference 7 Quarterfinals, but lost to W.T. Woodson. The year after, they finished with an underwhelming overall record of 8-13 and lost a Patriot Conference Quarterfinal game to Woodson once again.  This season continued to show the trend of mixed results for the team. This season the Titans started 0-4 and finished with a losing record of 7-14-1.

There are many factors that go into determining the accomplishments of a basketball team. The number one priority of a team should be hiring a quality head coach. Without a head coach, the team won’t be able to function. This is the problem that occurred at the beginning of tryouts last season. Former head coach Bryan Hill was fired one week before tryouts began. Hill’s team went 11-9 during his second season, which was his last. The reasoning for firing Hill was that he drove a player home without permission of parents. Another reason was that he conducted Sunday practices, which are against the VHSL handbook rules. With Hill out of the head coaching position–along with all of his assistant coaches–the basketball program hired Walter Coleman on an interim basis for the season.

The firing of Bryan Hill had almost reached the degree of a scandal. Hill was unaware of the problems and was fired on spot. This caused outrage and indignation in the eyes of player’s parents. According to The Washington Post, parents believed that Alexandria School Board member Bill Campbell was the focal point in the firing of Hill. Additionally, Hill was fired because several athletes complained about the team’s selection and profanity used in practices the year prior to his firing. Campbell has a son in the basketball program, Cameron Campbell. He was on the team post-firing of Hill and is currently on the roster. Jaquan Johnson was on the team while Hill was head coach and has a perspective that other players on the team might not have.

Johnson averaged 18 points per game this season and his game developed exponentially over the years each season. “[Coach Sullivan] had a very positive effect on me this year, he’s taught me a lot of new things that I can add to my game,” Johnson said. While Johnson was a freshman, he was on the varsity team roster and has since gone through all the three head coaches. When an athlete goes through new coach after new coach, they might become irritated and develop harsh feelings towards those changes.  Johnson has dealt with adversity and understood that all coaches have had their positives and negatives. Coach Sullivan has yet to have a negative impact in Johnson’s play.

Brett Sullivan’s first year wasn’t the greatest, but with a new coaching staff, a team would be expected to have a transition period. Sullivan was uninformed about the past history of coaches at T.C. He was hired last season after working at Bishop Ireton High School as an assistant coach. When informed about the circumstances, Sullivan understood where his players’ frustrations came from. Sullivan stated, “The guys that have gone through it, it just has made them better as far as individuals. It’s unfortunate though, that they haven’t had the continuity that other high school players have been fortunate enough to have.” Although Sullivan said there were no chemistry problems within the team, their record of 7-14-1 shows room for improvement.

Mark Eisenhour was the former Athletic Director and has seen the situation from an inside standpoint. Eisenhour was hired in the Fall of 2016 when the firing of Hill occurred. Eisenhour spoke of the termination of Hill as being a personnel matter. Then, Eisenhour elaborated on the hiring of Walter Coleman as interim coach. The administration did not need Coleman for another season because there was already a search for a permanent head coach. The basketball team knew that a new coach was going to arrive the next season, hoping for a better season than their last.

All the confusion going on in the basketball team’s locker room and administration will hopefully come to an end. There is a solid ground for the players to rest on with a new head coach, who plans to stay for the long run.  “I am proud of the sacrifices, energy and effort that our coaches, managers and players have invested thus far. All of which make me excited about the future prospects of T.C. Williams boys basketball,” said Sullivan.