By Maurice Patton
After achieving record-setting success during a previous Williamson County stint, Tony Hill is set to return as girls basketball coach at Independence.
Hill will be the fourth different coach at the helm of the Lady Eagles in as many seasons. He succeeds Mary Beth White, who led the program on an interim basis in 2020-21 after Bryan Glasner – who took over for Whitney Baird at the end of the ’18-19 campaign – was unavailable and eventually resigned in February.
“We are very excited to welcome Tony Hill to ‘Indy Nation’,” Independence principal Niki Patton said in a prepared statement. “Coach Hill brings a tremendous amount of basketball experience from both the high school and college levels, and we believe his coaching skillset brings our girls basketball program what it needs to take that next step in becoming a championship caliber team.
“He is passionate about the game of basketball, but more importantly, he is passionate about facilitating success for our girls in both athletics and academics. We are thrilled that Coach Hill will be joining our school community and look forward to the future success of our program.”
Most recently a member of the girls basketball coaching staff at Riverdale, Hill led Centennial to a four-year record of 55-48 from 2013-17, with the Lady Cougars posting their first winning record (18-8) in 2015-16 followed by a 19-win performance a year later. That season saw the program’s first district tournament victory, its first district finals appearance, first region tourney berth, first region finals and first state sectional.
Two months later, Hill resigned to take over the girls program at Portland. He’s since spent a season at Huntland and the last two at Riverdale.
“I’ve always had an eye on Independence,” Hill said. “I think that’s a job that’s a diamond in the rough, so to speak. I’ve always felt like you can win there. The pieces are in place – a great administration, a strong feeder program, … a lot of support from the community. I feel that’s a great place to coach girls basketball.
“With the realignment as it is now, you hope you can put yourself in a position to get to region play and make a run in the region tournament. When the opportunity presented itself, I reached out and was very excited to get the opportunity to be there. I’ve known a lot of those coaches for a long time. I can’t wait to work with them.”
Independence will compete for the next two seasons in District 12-AAAA, a five-team league with Columbia Central, Summit, Ravenwood and Nolensville. Presumably, the top four district tourney finishers will advance to regional play.
Hill said he intends to speak with assistants Jack Harlow and Dominique St. Louis and gauge their interest in continuing in those roles.
“We’re going to have a conversation and see where everybody’s head is. Certainly that’s a consideration,” Hill said regarding the return of Harlow, a Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association Hall of Fame inductee after winning 564 games at Franklin County, Columbia Central and Bradley Central. “I had the pleasure of meeting him at the State Farm Classic. He’s a great basketball guy, done a lot of great things.
“I would definitely want to sit down with him and Coach St. Louis and see if they’re interested in coming back.”.
Prior to his 2013 arrival in Middle Tennessee, Hill had served as girls coach at Milan in West Tennessee, following collegiate head coaching stints at Lambuth University in Jackson – where he was named Mid-South Conference Coach of the Year in 2010 — and at Rose-Hulman in Terre Haute, Ind.