Rutgers promotes assistant Hill to head coach

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Fred Hill Jr. was introduced as the Rutgers men's basketball coach Monday, calling it the culmination of a lifelong dream.

The New Jersey native succeeds Gary Waters, who resigned earlier this month with four years left on his contract. Waters brought in Hill before last season as an associate coach for a Scarlet Knights team that finished 19-14 and played in the NIT.

"A long time ago I had a dream to come here," said the 47-year-old Hill, who since 1981 has served as an assistant coach at eight schools in addition to Rutgers, including fellow Big East members Villanova and Seton Hall.

"You can never pick and choose in this business," he said. "There were some opportunities to be a head coach that I didn't take because I didn't think the timing was right. This was an opportunity I was waiting for, and for whatever reason it seems to have worked out the right way."

He signed a five-year contract worth $500,000 annually counting base salary and other considerations, according to athletic director Robert Mulcahy.

Hill takes over a program that has not been to the NCAA Tournament since 1991 and has had one 20-win season since 1983. He comes from a coaching family: His father, Fred Hill Sr., is Rutgers' longtime baseball coach and uncle Brian Hill is a veteran collegiate and NBA coach. Both men served as mentors early in his career.

"He's always wanted to coach here," the elder Hill said. "He's spoken of Rutgers for years and years. I'm just happy for him."

The younger Hill has carved out a reputation as a skillful recruiter in New York and New Jersey, an area in which Waters, who had previously coached at Kent State, was considered deficient.

His biggest challenge will be to have the same recruiting success at Rutgers that he had at his previous Big East stops. Hill was instrumental in recruiting the players who led Villanova to the regional finals this season, and the 2000 class he helped recruit at Seton Hall was considered among the best in the country.

"Certainly some of the other programs have a little more tradition and a little more history than we have, and that's one of he obstacles we have to overcome," he said. "But tradition and history start somewhere, and I think there are some great players in this state who are going to want to be the guys who start the tradition and history here."

The Rutgers players backed the hiring.

"I think certainly he's the right guy," freshman J.R. Inman said. "He's from New Jersey and he's well-respected in this area. When you talk about building a program you have to start with a good foundation from your home state, and he's a good recruiter in the state of New Jersey."