Familiar face returns to Basehor-Linwood gym
A familiar face was on the sideline during the Basehor-Linwood Invitational Basketball Tournament, but this time he was not wearing the green and gold of the Bobcats.
Don Hills made his first trip back to Basehor-Linwood as a coach since his dismissal from the Bobcats' boys' basketball position three years ago.
Today, Hills is an assistant coach for Pembroke Hill, but for 24 years he was in charge of basketball for USD 458.
Pembroke Hill was one of eight teams competing in the tournament Jan. 20-25.
"It was a special moment," Hills said of returning to Basehor-Linwood. "I enjoy seeing and talking with people that I used to see on a regular basis.
"I get to see all of my trophies," he said with a smile.
Hills has lived in northeastern Kansas his whole life, and for the 48-year-old, half of those years were spent in the Basehor-Linwood school district.
In 1976, he accepted the head coaching job at Linwood High School fresh from graduating from Ottawa University.
He remained the school's head coach for 12 years until Linwood and Basehor consolidated in 1988. At that point, Hills became the head coach for the newly formed Basehor-Linwood Bobcats.
During those 24 years, he compiled a 297-215 record.
In 2000, despite an impressive career, Basehor-Linwood fans learned that Hills and the school would be going their separate ways.
At the time, school officials said they wanted to take the boys basketball program in a different direction, and they decided to promote then head girls coach, Dan Miller, to the boys' job.
"Overall, I was proud of the program we developed," Hills said reflecting on the years spent at Basehor-Linwood. "They (teams) all were special to me."
While Hills is no longer head coach at Basehor-Linwood, he still has the respect and admiration of peers and those in Basehor.
"Don is what I would consider a 'class-act' coach," Piper head coach David Hall said in a story that appeared in the Sentinel after Hills' dismissal. "He is a man who really cares for his players, not only on the court but off the court."
"He was a great coach," USD 458 school board member Pat Jeannin said. "He coached some great teams and some great players."
Hills did not leave Basehor-Linwood entirely in 2000. His middle son, Jake, finished his high school career at BLHS, and Hills enjoyed watching him play basketball.
Because of this, he has witnessed some of the changes that have taken place, though he does not watch the team now that Jake has graduated.
"The facilities are obviously nice," he said of the new gym. "It's hard to say where the program is going right now because this year I've only watched the Bonner game which isn't a good representation.
"I wish them well," he said.
Today, living in Bonner Springs, Hills is satisfied with where his life has gone since Basehor-Linwood.
He is a physical education teacher at St. Elizabeth Middle School, and coaches freshman basketball at Pembroke Hill.
He said he has encountered an ideal situation at Pembroke Hill and is happy he had the opportunity to help with their basketball program.
"Pembroke just offered it to me," Hills said. "I took it because it gave me the opportunity to get back into the game. They're great. The people at Pembroke are top notch people."
Enjoying his present duties, Hills said he was unsure whether he would ever pursue a head coaching job again though he doubted he would.
"I probably would not be a head coach," he said. "I enjoy being part of the action, but looking back, it's a lot of work."
A head coaching job may or may not be in Hills' future, but he is certain that basketball had to be a part of his life.
He said if he had to pick a hobby, it would be basketball.
"I don't do a lot away from basketball," Hills said. "I coach and watch basketball in my free time."
Pembroke Hill, with Hills on the sideline, finished fourth in the BLHS tournament.
Pembroke started by upsetting Hills' hometown school, No. 2 seed Bonner Springs, in the first round to advance to the winners' bracket. The Raiders then lost their next two games to Platte County and Blue Valley West.