If not Lee, then who at Hillside?

Jul. 11, 2014 @ 11:36 PM

 It had the makings of The Decision 2.0, when LeBron James announced Friday that he was leaving the Miami Heat and heading back home to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Former Hillside High School basketball player Rashard Lee said he'd thrown his name in the hat to replace Hornets coach Crasten Davis with an eye on returning the hoops hysteria his alma mater hosted back when the Pony Express teams were running strong, back when John Lucas and Rodney Rogers ruled.

Then Lee's phone rang. It was Hillside athletics director Bob Hill, Lee said.

“I got a call (Friday), and it said they were going in a different direction,” Lee said.

Exactly what that direction is remains unknown. Neither Hill nor Durham Public Schools athletics director Larry McDonald responded to The Herald-Sun's inquiries about Hillside's search for a boys' basketball coach.

McDonald has said Davis lost his job as Hillside's coach due to “internal issues.”

The Hornets were 16-12 last season with Davis at the helm. Hillside made it to the second round of the state's 4-A playoffs.

Lee, 37 and a teacher at E.K. Powe Elementary School, would have brought quite a bit to Hillside's bench. He played at the University of Tennessee from 1995 to 1999 and then went to Europe for a professional basketball career. He has spent recent seasons as an assistant coach for the Chapel Hill High School basketball program.

Last season, Lason Perkins was the interim coach at Chapel Hill High. Former Reidsville High School coach Bill Walton got the permanent job in June.

Hillside is an historically black school where plenty of students over the years emerged as solid scholars and splendid athletes. Finding just the right person to coach the boys' basketball team is a really big deal, McDonald said.

Lee said he'd been wrapping his mind around the idea of being that guy.

“I wanted the job. Don't mistake that. I really wanted it,” Lee said. “There's a lot of tradition and a lot of pride that goes into that program historically.

“My challenge personally was to measure up to the old-school Hillside, and that is a feat,” Lee continued. “That's where I really was until I got the call.”

When Perkins wasn't retained as the head coach at Chapel Hill High, Lee said he had a mind to help Hillside as an assistant coach for Davis. But then Davis got cut.

The basketball teams at both Hillside and Chapel Hill are coming off winnings seasons and appearances in the playoffs, yet both teams are without the coaches who got them there. Neither the principals nor athletics directors for either school have spoken publicly about their decisions to part ways with coaches who were having success.

“It's scary for us,” Lee said. “We don't get the big bucks if we get fired.”