After a year away from the basketball court, Manson Hill is returning to the bench close to home.
South Forsyth athletic director Keith Gravitt announced Monday that Hill, who led the Gainesville High School girls basketball program to four state championships, has been hired as the War Eagles’ new boys basketball coach.
Hill, 59, has been a resident of Cumming since 1997. He takes over for Kevin Dankosky, who coached the South boys for three years before resigning in February.
Hill spent more than two decades of his 35-year coaching career at Gainesville, leading the Lady Red Elephants to 13 consecutive state playoff appearances at one point and winning state titles in 1994, 2001, 2003 and 2004. Despite retiring in 2011, Hill said his departure from the sport was never meant to be permanent.
“I told people at the time ‘this is more of a year of sabbatical,’” Hill said.
“I don’t think there was any doubt in my wife’s mind that I was going to go back. It was a good year, but I always thought I’d go back into [coaching].”
The year off allowed Hill and his wife, Mary, to travel during the winter — a luxury that his coaching duties had not previously allowed. After spending four months in Hilton Head Island, S.C. and two weeks in California, Hill said he’s eager to begin his new role at South, where he will also teach mathematics part-time.
Gravitt said Hill’s presence in the community, his coaching success and passion for the game made him an ideal fit for the War Eagles.
“With Coach Hill, it’s exciting to have somebody with the type of experience he has interested in South Forsyth High School,” the athletic director said.
“I loved his energy level when he came in and talked to us, and his seriousness and knowledge about basketball. He is committed to our community and involved in things in the Forsyth County area.”
Hill inherits a South squad that finished 8-19 last season. The War Eagles haven’t reached the state playoffs since 2008.
Hill has never coached boys basketball at the varsity level, but he’s proven that his coaching abilities extend beyond girls basketball. While at Gainesville, he led the girls golf program to two state titles and nine region titles.
“I coached them as athletes rather than girls,” Hill said of his past players.
“I’m sure there will be some differences [with boys] but ... the foundation of my program at Gainesville will be the foundation of my program at South. I think basketball is basketball.”
Hill will be one of four new boys basketball coaches at Forsyth County’s five public high schools when the 2012-13 season begins. The programs at Forsyth Central, Lambert and West Forsyth have also had vacancies this year.
“There were four [Forsyth County] jobs open in boys [basketball], and I thought this was the best job,” Hill said.
“I like the players here, I like the administration here, and I like the whole feel of South.”