In his one-year hiatus from coaching, Fred Hill toured the country watching how different college basketball programs operate. On December 16, Hill visited Northwestern, where he met with head coach Bill Carmody—who became a friend of his while Carmody was coaching at Princeton.
Hill was in the crowd to watch the Wildcats roll past American University, led by John Shurna's 28-point performance.
Fast-forward a few months later. Princeton head coach Sydney Johnson leaves to take the same job at Fairfield University, which opens the door for Northwestern assistant Mitch Henderson to take the vacant head coach position at Princeton.
Suddenly, there was a job opening at Northwestern.
"You never plan those things in our sport, you never know what's going to happen," said Hill.
14 months from his dismissal from Rutgers, Hill was looking to return to coaching, and was interested in the open position at Northwestern. He phoned Bill Carmody and expressed his curiosity in the job.
"I've loved Chicago and the Midwest, it's always been my favorite city," Hill said. "I picked up the phone and said, ‘coach, I'd love to sit and talk with you about joining your staff,'"
Carmody happened to be traveling to New Jersey days later, so the two met over breakfast and discussed potential plans. Shortly after, Hill was hired.
It would become a perfect fit. Hill would join the coaching staff of Bill Carmody—someone who he has tremendous respect for.
"I wanted to work for a really good guy, he's an unbelievable coach," Hill said. "I don't know if people realize what they have in Coach Carmody, he's got an offensive genius type of mind. He's terrific and I wanted to work with a great staff."
Hill brings an impressive résumé of east coast recruiting, which includes the signing of Eddie Griffin—2001 Big East Rookie of the Year—and NBA veteran Samuel Dalenbert, among others, during his career.
When Hill officially joined the staff, he went straight to work, traveling all over the east coast on recruiting trips.
Hill first moved to Evanston on September 1 and settled into town, but had yet to find a home. He lived out of the Hilton Orrington Hotel in Evanston for six weeks, before finally moving into a house last weekend.
Though he is still settling in to his new house, Hill said he has felt at home at Northwestern from the start.
"From the day I stepped on campus, the coaching staff made me feel like part of the family and like I was at home," Hill said. I felt at home from day one and it's just been terrific."
Hill joins a Northwestern team that has reached three consecutive postseason appearances for the first time in program history, but has fallen short of reaching their first NCAA tournament berth.
The Wildcats have been through six preseason practices as a team and Hill—finally settled into Evanston—is beginning to build a relationship with the players.
"It's an outstanding team," Hill said. "It's a team that really can share the ball; you got guys that can knock it down. The guys have been awesome. What a great group of kids to coach, they're very coachable. I'm very excited to see where we can go with this team and this program."
As head coach of Rutgers, Hill has the chance to work alongside his father, Fred Hill Sr., who is the head baseball coach. Hill described working with his father as a "unique, awesome" experience, but that came to an end in April, 2010, when he was dismissed as head coach.
Hill was looking to land back on his feet. A little more than a year later, he found the perfect job—again.
"I don't think you ever get to choose and you can't look for another perfect fit," Hill said. "I just think, if you work really hard, you do the right things, things seem to happen for a reason. I couldn't be happier and it did work out that you go from what great situation that was pretty unique into another one that's absolutely phenomenal."
Hill has settled into Evanston and is ready to start another season. He is thrilled to have landed at Northwestern.
"It's been the perfect fit, it really has," Hill said. "I consider myself very lucky—in this business, you never know where you're going to wind up. I wound up in a perfect place. It's been awesome."