Any day, Greg Hilliard’s 30-year run as basketball coach at Harvard-Westlake could come to an end. So far, his players are leaving everyone guessing, because they keep winning and extending Hilliard’s retirement date.
Hilliard is having so much fun that he’s standing almost the entire game and showing emotion, like clinching his fist after baskets.
“I think it’s realizing it’s coming to an end, so all the things I used to do that I was worried about . . . now I’m just enjoying myself every moment,” he said. “I guess I’m getting a little bit more involved than I used to.”
Harvard-Westlake (14-13) has made it to the Southern Section Division 4AA quarterfinals and will host San Luis Obispo Mission Prep on Tuesday night.
For 30 years, Hilliard has exuded class on and off the court, which is why so many opposing coaches have been paying him respect and offering best wishes. His teams have won 13 league titles, nine Southern Section titles and two state championships.
“I’m very grateful for all the nice feelings I get from everybody,” he said. “It’s a very pleasant way to end it.”
The most pleasant way, of course, would be to win another Southern Section title. His team has suffered injuries, possesses little size and hardly looks like a title contender, but they keep playing hard.
Guard Alex Copeland has been outstanding and several young players have improved so much over the last month that the Wolverines certainly can’t be overlooked in a division where five Mission League teams are still alive.
“I think they are overachieving and that’s kind of what I imagined this team would be like,” he said. “It’s what I was looking forward to. Nobody works harder than these guys.”
Whenever the final game is completed, Hilliard will be remembered as the coach who helped put Harvard-Westlake’s athletic program on the map. His teams’ basketball success, starting with the Collins twins, helped create opportunities for other sports programs. The school’s overall program in academics and sports has established a standard others try to emulate.