Coleman, a security officer at Francis C. Hammond Middle School in Alexandria, was set to begin coaching the team immediately and to conduct tryouts on Wednesday. Monday and Tuesday, Athletic Director Steve Colantuoni presided over tryouts, which parents of players described as “pickup games.”
Coleman will coach on an interim basis for one season, after which school administrators will hire a long-term replacement. Coleman said Wednesday he would be interested in that role.
Hill was dismissed Oct. 31 amid an ongoing dispute with Alexandria School Board member Bill Campbell, who has two sons in the basketball program. Hill and seven parents of six current players, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because their sons remain students and athletes at T.C. Williams, said Campbell had been working for a year to oust Hill.
Campbell denied those claims.
Coleman, who is also a member of the school’s football coaching staff, said he was immediately interested in the opening after Hill’s dismissal.
Hill said he had not retained Coleman to coach the freshman team this season because with football responsibilities, Coleman could not commit to basketball full time.
Coleman applied for the position last week and interviewed with a panel of booster club members on Monday. Tuesday, he interviewed with Colantuoni and principal Jesse Dingle and was offered the position that evening.
“When I found out that he was let go, I felt like since I’ve coached everybody in the program, it would be a great opportunity to apply,” Coleman said. “We’re going to work hard, but the kids will have fun in the process. Over the past few years I think it was more business than fun. They are kids, and kids do like to have fun.”
Several of Hill’s assistant coaches also applied for the position but were not interviewed, according to Hill and several parents.
Coleman said he does not plan to bring back any former assistants.
“I think it’d be best for the kids and the community to just move forward with a whole new staff,” he said.
Parents whose children played on Coleman’s freshman team called the coach “a quiet man” with “excellent basketball knowledge.”
“He knows the boys that are on the squad, and hopefully there will be some continuity this year,” said Ed Walsh, whose son played on the freshman team last year. “The players liked him. They felt very good about his selection as coach.”
School district spokeswoman Helen Lloyd declined to provide a reason for Hill’s dismissal last week, citing privacy requirements for personnel issues. Hill is a certified special education teacher and teaches algebra. He will continue to teach at T.C. Williams.