Fred Hill maintained the last few months he had no question he would return for a fifth season as Rutgers’ men’s basketball coach, so he said the news emanating from athletic director Tim Pernetti’s office Wednesday was no reason for a big reaction.
So following a morning meeting and the lunchtime announcement Hill was remaining as the Scarlet Knights coach, Hill looked toward building momentum in the program, are started off by speaking about the proposed renovation of the Rutgers Athletic Center.
“I’m really excited about the support of the administration, the facility renovations we have plans for, and going out and raising funds to do great things for this program as we move it forward,’’ Hill said during an afternoon conference call. “We talked about the program, and that’s what I’m really excited about -- about where it’s headed, what we’re doing.’’
When those renovations begin, and the extent of them, will be decided by how much funding the athletic department can secure.
Included in the project a renovation of the RAC, and the addition of a basketball practice facility.
“(Pernetti) has done a great job in soliciting donors to share his vision, and he and I share the same goals and the same vision of the program,’’ Hill said. “I think we all want what’s best for Rutgers, and I’m excited about the facility renovations that we have on the board.’’
Hill’s tenure became an ongoing source of contention as the season wore on, especially after Rutgers began the season by losing its first eight Big East game.
Hill, who was three years remaining on his contract, was to be paid $1.56 million if he was fired. And while finances were a consideration, that is not why Rutgers kept him, sources said.
But the Scarlet Knights responded by winning five of their last 10 league games, and the 15-17 mark, as well as the 5-13 Big East record, was Rutgers’ best showing in Hill’s four seasons.
In February, Hill stated he believed the program could finish .500 in the league, which would put them in very good shape for an NCAA Tournament bid. The only player the Scarlet Knights are expected to lose is senior center Hamady Ndiaye, the Big East defensive player of the year.
"This is the type of team that I feel very confident about that can be a .500 team in the Big East," said Hill. "And I think if you're a .500 team in the Big East and you finish in the top eight with that record in the conference, then you are an NCAA tournament team.
“And that is where I'm looking to head, and I love the guys coming back, and I think that is a very realistic goal for us and this program. That’s what we’re going to try and accomplish next year.’’
However, Hill stopped short of saying the season would not be success if Rutgers didn’t finish .500 in the Big East.
“I will never judge success on winning a game or winning a number of games,’’ he said. “You want to build the program and move the program forward, and that's what I'm excited about. I'm excited about the meeting with Tim and the vision and the goals that we share.
“I’m excited about the facility renovation, and what’s on the board to have happen here; things that have been needed to be done for a long time, and that’s a very, very exciting time for any coach in any program.’’
Hill’s overall record is 47-77, and 13-57 in the Big East.
During homes games while beginning the league season with eight losses, Hill was booed at home. However, he said comfort coaching at home was never an issue.
“It was never uncomfortable for me,’’ Hill said. “I think that the one of the things that we did is we went out and worked extremely hard every day. I’ve got a group of great guys. They did a great job of working hard every single day. They did a great job of getting better, and I think we have great fans.
“I think our fans are the greatest. They are certainly frustrated over the lack of success, the last 19 years not going to the NCAA Tournament. I share their frustration. My job is to move us in that direction, and get us there.’’