COACH OF THE YEAR : Hilliard's Hard Work Pays Off for Harvard


Greg Hilliard has toiled as a high-school coach for 20 years, and consistency has been his benchmark.

Hilliard, 45, has averaged 14.9 victories a season. Not spectacular, but solid.

Then along came 6-foot-10 twins Jason and Jarron Collins and a 1995 season in which the Wolverines finished 29-3 and earned a Southern Section Division III championship.

Now Hilliard can cash in on all the years.

Only two larger thrills have eluded Harvard-Westlake. A blocked shot in the final second of a 55-54 loss to Artesia in the Southern California Regional final deprived the Wolverines of a berth in the state championship game and Hilliard his 300th coaching victory.

"I had a goal of winning the CIF, and we did," said Hilliard, The Times' Valley Coach of the Year. "I was pretty excited about that. When we came within one game of getting to the state finals, I guess that was a little more than we expected."

Expectations were high with the arrival of the Collins brothers, who provided 33.7 points and 23 rebounds a game this season. But Hilliard was concerned that other players might resent the towering twins and have trouble adjusting to a new half-court offense.

"When you get talented players and you have successful years, you look good as a coach," said Hilliard, who came to Harvard in 1985.

"Sometimes in the lean years, you feel you have to pull out all the stops in your bag of tricks. But in a year like this, with talented kids, sometimes they bailed me out.

"This is definitely the best team I've ever coached."

In a season full of thrills, the first memory Hilliard will likely draw upon is a four-day trip to Berkeley for a tournament last fall. It came long before all the highlights and championship hoopla, but put the Wolverines on the road to success.

"The experience we shared on the court and off the court, whether it be in San Francisco or at some greasy spoon, it brought the team together," Hilliard said.

"And after that everybody seemed to accept their roles."

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