If you get a chance to get out to Richmond Hill High School on Saturday night, by all means do it.
But be forewarned — it might just get loud.
That’s because the Wildcats will honor the one-and-only Jimmy Hires, who will be inducted into the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame this year for winning more than 600 games and guiding the RHHS boys’ basketball team to five final fours and three state Class A crowns, the most recent of which came in 1994.
That’s about a decade before he gave up coaching basketball in 2004. And 1994 is also the year before I started covering high school sports up in Effingham County, and back then everybody in the Coastal Empire and state of Georgia who knew anything about prep basketball knew who Hires was.
If you didn’t, all you had to do was get within 1,000 yards of a gym where his team was playing and you could hear him coaching up the Wildcats.
The man’s voice carried, you see, bouncing off gym walls and echoing through hallways like it was trying to find a way to get outside and punch holes in the clouds.
It still carries, in a rumbling sort of way. And when Hires talks, it’s a good idea to listen.
Just ask those who’ve followed in his footsteps, like current RHHS basketball coach William Henderson.
“Coach Hires has meant a lot to me,” Henderson said. “I am proud to say that I had the opportunity to play for coach Hires, and there are a lot of things that I learned playing for him that I try to pass on to my players today. As I’ve moved into coaching he has always been there to support me and has always been willing to offer advice and help along the way.”
Or ask those who won state titles playing for Hires, like Heath Meguiar, a guard on the last state title team and now a math teacher at RHHS.
“He’s probably the single greatest high school basketball coach I’ve been around,” Meguiar said. “You knew when you came out, if you didn’t bring the intensity you were going to sit on the bench. But the great thing about coach was he could take a couple of decent or pretty good players and a lot of average and less than average players and make a great team out of them.”
It was Meguiar’s seeing an old basketball autographed by the ’93-’94 state title team that sparked something in him, a need to recognize what had been and salute the man most responsible for it.
Since then, his idea of a Jimmy Hires Night has evolved from including just players from the last state title team to all those who Hires coached.
“With all the growth and success Richmond Hill High School and the community is having now, I just kind of thought it would be a good idea to step back a little and acknowledge somebody like coach Hires, who back in the ’80s and ’90s put Richmond Hill on the map,” Meguiar said. “So much comes and goes in 20 years, you know? What better way to remember the past than a night with coach Hires?”
Indeed. And for Meguiar, who wants to get into coaching himself, there’s only one coach like Hires.
Read full story in Jan. 22 issue of Bryan County News.