Kevin Gill

Kevin Gill had a highly successful turn at La Vega High School, including winning a state championship in 2000, but said that the McLennan Community College job was something he couldn’t pass up when it came open in 2002.

To maintain its longtime tradition of excellence in men’s basketball, McLennan Community College has turned to one of the winningest high school coaches in Central Texas.

MCC named La Vega boys’ coach Kevin Gill as its new men’s coach Tuesday, replacing athletic director Wendell Hudson, who filled the position this past season on an interim basis after former head man Ray Farrell resigned last October.

“I wanted to have a set of keys with me, so I could just hand them to Kevin,” said Hudson with a laugh. “I’m really glad to be giving up the keys to those offices with recruiting coming.”

Gill, who led the Pirates to the 2000 Class 3A state championship and was the Tribune Herald’s Super Centex Coach of the Year that season, was selected from a pool of 27 applicants, including a number of current juco coaches. But Hudson said he knew Gill was the right man for the job.

“We’re really excited to welcome Kevin to our basketball family at MCC,” Hudson said. “A lot of people wonder about hiring a high school coach, but I always want the best person for the job, and that was Kevin.”

Gill said he never had any intention of leaving La Vega, his alma mater, until the MCC position opened up.

“Even up until this year, I never dreamed of coaching college basketball,” he said. “I was coaching at my alma mater at La Vega and I thought I’d be there the rest of my life. But this opportunity presented itself, and it was one I couldn’t pass up.

“If it had been any other school but MCC, I wouldn’t have even thought about it.”

Gill earned his bachelor’s degree from Paul Quinn College and his master’s degree from Prairie View A&M before starting his varsity coaching career at Hubbard High School in 1996. He took over at La Vega in 1999 and led the Pirates to state championship glory just a year later.

Gill, who sports an overall high school coaching record of 167-33, inherits a Highlander team that went 19-12 and surprised many by advancing to the Region V championship game this past season. The new coach said he expects to keep the program moving in the right direction.

“This is a program that is rich in tradition and I’m going to do everything I can to keep that tradition going,” he said. “It’s just a first-class operation.”

Gill will continue to teach at La Vega through the remainder of the school year, but he plans to work at MCC in the afternoons. It’s a place that is familiar to him and his wife, Suzette.

“We were at about 80 percent of the games this year, anyway,” Gill said. “Now we’ve got a reason to be here.”

Prior to Tuesday’s news conference at The Highlands Gym, a number of the freshmen from this past season’s Highlander squad milled around on the court, casually shooting baskets. It’s a driven, hungry group that is energized by Gill’s reputation as a winner.

“I’m very excited,” said guard Ray Wilson. “We’ve got a player coming back who’s from Waco (Dominic Berkley) and he tells us La Vega has a great tradition of winning. So if we can get somebody from La Vega’s winning tradition and bring it here to MCC and build on what we did last year, well, I’m all pumped up about it.”

However, intermingled with the players’ enthusiasm over the hiring of Gill was a sense of regret that Hudson was hanging up his whistle again. After all, it had been a season to remember.

“Coach Hudson meant a lot to us,” Wilson said. “It would be pretty hard for any average coach to come in and take over the team at the time he did, but he came in and hit the ground running, just like he was here from Day One. We respected that.”

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