Georgia State formally announced Gene Hill as the Panther’s new women’s basketball head coach.
He was hired after a nearly month-long nationwide search. He replaces Sharon Baldwin, whose contract was not renewed after eight years with the Panthers.
Hill comes to Georgia State after eight seasons as an assistant in the ACC. The first three were spent in Atlanta with Georgia Tech, and the last five in Raleigh as Assistant and Recruiting Coordinator with the North Carolina State Wolfpack.
“Gene Hill is a proven coach and recruiter who knows Atlanta and what it takes to build a winning program,” said Georgia State Athletic Director Charlie Cobb in a press release publicizing the hire. “Gene has succeeded at the highest level and guided student-athletes to success on and off the court. We are delighted to welcome Gene Hill and his family to Georgia State as our women’s basketball coach.”
“He’s going to be an awesome ambassador for the university and the fans are going to love him,” Wes Moore, Head Coach of NC State, said in the same release. “He’s excited about being at Georgia State and I really believe he’s going to do some unbelievable things there. He is very well-connected in recruiting circles with high school and travel ball coaches especially in the Atlanta area.”
With recruiting being his background, it’s no surprise that will be his first focus after getting the job. He stayed in Atlanta Thursday and met athletic supporters and donors as part of the Panther Athletic Club Spring Coaches Tour event (in the photo above, he’s second from right). He told the assemblage that first thing in the morning, he was hitting the recruiting trail.
“There is so much talent in Metro Atlanta and South Georgia,” he told me in an interview conducted beforehand. “The talent in this area has just grown. If we can get a few of these players to stay home, there is no question we could be competitive. (Friday) I’m going to jump on a plane and go recruiting. It’s the lifeline, so I’ll spend the next 72 hours recruiting for Georgia State.”
“I will use my contacts. If you look back at my resume, I’ve consistently recruited Georgia hard, no matter where I’ve been. I’ll use those relationships that I’ve built. And kids want to see success. If we can start having some, I think it would be an easier sell.”
The cupboard of Georgia players isn’t bare on this Panther roster. Jada Lewis, who was the Sun Belt Freshman of the Year two seasons ago, comes from McEachern High School in Powder Springs. Madison Newby, Freshman of the Year before Lewis, hails from Archer in Gwinnett County. Both players suffered injuries that wiped out most of their second seasons and have not consistently shared the backcourt. As of now, the lone incoming freshman is Carly Winters, a point machine from East Hall in the Gainesville area.
He also knows exactly what he’s getting into with the Sun Belt. “It’s a tough league. We’re excited to compete with teams like Little Rock, Texas State, Troy. We have to get players that are motivated and embracing (the mentality) that we can do it here at Georgia State.”
He inherits a veteran roster which features everyone returning. “I’ve met with the players,” Hill said. “I’m excited. We talked about a fresh start. It’s an opportunity to make a difference here. We have a very veteran group. They were very open to a new change and new possibilities.”
I asked what attracted him the most about coming to Georgia State. “Just the synergy going on,” he responded. “There are a lot of positive vibes. I think Georgia State has changed with a lot of growth under the leadership of (Georgia State President Dr. Mark) Becker and Charlie. Georgia State has taken off and the talent in this area has grown.”
Hill has had two prior stints as a head coach. One was at then Division II USC-Spartanburg (now Division I USC-Upstate) back in 1999 and went for two seasons. The other was when he served as interim coach at East Carolina at the end of the 2002 campaign. Ironically, when he was not brought back for the following season, it was Sharon Baldwin (then Sharon Baldwin-Tener) who took over. He has a combined record of 15-48.
He assured the Panther Athletic Club that his ultimate goal is to follow the example of Ron Hunter and lead Georgia State women’s basketball into the NCAA tournament by winning the Sun Belt. As he explained to the group, that was the same message to the players. “I told them we are going. You can come either as a player, or as a fan.”