GREENSBORO — It’s time to make room in the trophy case.
Derrick Hill helped turn East Surry into a softball powerhouse by coaching the Lady Cardinals to five state championships in the mid-to-late 2000s and early 2010s. His work in the area was celebrated when he was inducted into the Surry County Sports Hall of Fame. But his impact didn’t stop there.
With more than 350 wins and a handful of state championships, Hill’s legacy will forever be enshrined in the North Carolina Softball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
“It’s quite an honor to be recognized like that from your peers,” Hill said. “I’ve coached against a lot of those guys for years. Some of those guys I’ve known for 20-plus years and we’ve had some wars.”
A Hall of Fame career nearly didn’t happen. Hill was a wide-eyed 22-year-old when he was asked to help coach a recreation softball team in Davidson County. The team exceeded all Hill’s expectations by going undefeated en route to the Davidson County title.
Hill also credits his success to mentors such as Mike Lambros and Pop Rivers.
“A huge influence on me for all of my career was Coach Mike Lambros at North Davidson, who sadly passed away last fall after a long battle with cancer,” Hill said. “The entire North Carolina softball family misses him terribly. Pop Rivers, who is retired from Forest Hills High School, nominated me for this, so a huge thank you to him. There are a thousand others that would take two days to list, but all my former and current players, all my assistants and school administrators have obviously been vital to our success.”
The young coach began his teaching career at East Surry and served as an assistant for the school’s 1999 state title. Hill won his first state championship as a head coach in 2005. Then, a dynasty was born.
“After we won our first state title, I never would’ve dreamed I’d be there five or six times,” Hill said. “You win two or three state championships and then it becomes an expectation. Then when you don’t make it back, it’s a bummer.”
He proceeded to post a 304-66 record for an astounding 82.16 winning percentage. Hill then became the only softball coach in North Carolina to win four straight championships (2008-2011). Hill’s resume also includes eight conference titles, nine conference tournament titles, eight sectional titles, five Western Regional titles, and a state runner-up finish. Hill was named conference Coach of the Year seven times and Region 7 Coach of the Year in 2010.
Hill left East Surry in 2013. After spending two years at South Stokes not coaching, he made the move to East Wilkes, where he has been for the past three seasons. He has a 41-34 overall record with the Cardinals from Ronda.
Hill said in his remaining years as a coach, he would like to help East Wilkes develop an all-star program like he had at East Surry.
I think I’ve got seven, maybe eight more years to teach,” Hill said. “Obviously everybody starts the season with the goal to make it to the state finals, and I’ve been fortunate to have accomplished what I did. Now, I want to get these kids at East Wilkes where we are in the conversation [for a title] every year like the kids at East Surry.”
“That’s my ultimate goal.”
Elkin Tribune writer Kristian Russell contributed to this article.
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith