Former Apaches remember legendary Coach Vernon Hill


The Gonzales Apaches basketball program is mourning the loss of a legend and former coach in late January.

Former Apaches head basketball coach Vernon Charles Hill passed away at the age of 84 on Monday, Jan. 29 in his Carencro, La., home.

Hill led the Apaches to their only state title in 1974 — 50 years ago this March 2; the title banner hangs in the high school’s old gym. He was honored as the State Coach of the Year for that 1973-74 season.

Former players spoke highly of Hill and his impact to the team and program.

“I was honored to be asked to interview regarding the recent passing of the legendary basketball coach, Vernon Hill,” said former Apache Jimmy Jackson. “Under his leadership, in 1974, he led the Gonzales Apaches to the only state basketball championship in the school’s history. He taught his players the value of team above self, ever striving for personal best, self-discipline and humility. Coach Hill regarded every player as his ‘favorite’ and took special interest in developing the skills of his players.

“It was so special for me to have the opportunity of seeing Coach Hill again in 2019 when we attended former player Dennis Tealer’s Texas Hall of Fame induction. Coach Hill, in the manner you would have liked, we offer a team tribute to you by sharing sentiments from a few of your loyal players.”

Garland Blundell, who played for Hill in 1973, said Hill was a coach who developed “young men for the game of basketball as well as life; and was a no nonsense coach.”

Four players from the 1974 state championship team also paid their respects to their former coach.

“I was honored to play two years for Coach Vernon Hill,” said Tealer, who was the MVP of the 77-62 championship game win over Crosby after scoring 37 points and pulling down 16 boards.

“Coach Hill had an outstanding old school basketball program where we constantly ran fast breaks and pressed after each bucket. We won over 50 games during those two seasons. Coach Hill was fair, but firm, and held us all to a high standard. We were all blessed to have been exposed to Coach Hill, as well as his wife Severa.”

Hill is remembered for coaching fundamental basketball and expecting the best from all of his players.

“We had talent with Coach Hill, but we needed what Coach Hill gave us: discipline, mental toughness, a winning attitude and the ability to respect your opponent,” said Tommy Bludau, who scored 18 in the championship game and was named to the All-Tournament Team with Tealer.

“He’s one of the major reasons we won in Austin. I loved and highly respected Coach Hill for what he helped us to accomplish.”

Another 1974 team member, Jeff Menking, added to what Bludau said about Hill’s ability to get the best out of his players.

“Coach Hill was a master at pulling out his players’ strengths, hiding the weaknesses, and making sure we were never satisfied with just winning,” Menking said. “He was a true teacher, beyond the court as he instilled values and morality that stayed with us forever. Winning state was simply an added bonus for our 1974 team.”

Many of the players stayed in contact with each other after winning the title and have had many reunions.

“While attending the 25th anniversary ceremony for our state championship held at UT, I thanked Coach Hill for his leadership,” said Lawrence Fryer. “He responded by thanking me and said the team won those games, and it was an honor being with the best group of individuals he’d ever coached.”

Former Apaches head football coach Gerald Lowery remembered Hill during their time in high school and a friendship grew from that association.

“I grew up playing against Coach Hill in high school in the Beaumont area. We went to college together and became lifelong friends. Coach Hill was a very competitive person and worked very hard at his job! He had the highest integrity,” Lowery said.

Hill was a native of Beaumont and had lived in Carencro, La., for the past 25 years. He was a teacher and coach for 45 years, holding a bachelor’s degree in biology and kinesiology from Lamar University in Beaumont.

His funeral service was held Friday, Feb. 2, 2024, and he was interred at Evangeline Memorial Gardens in Carencro, La.