Northwestern Recruiting a Family Affair for the Hillers


Scott Hiller, a former MLL Coach of the Year, provides a wealth of experience as an assistant.

Scott Hiller has interviewed for plenty of coaching positions in his nearly three-decade career in lacrosse.

He spent eight seasons as an assistant on the Harvard men’s lacrosse staff in the 1990s. He won MLL Coach of the Year twice in four seasons with the Boston Cannons (2002, 2003). He served as head coach and general manager for the Washington Bayhawks in 2006 and 2007.

Scott Hiller’s resume is stronger than many in the sport, but nothing could quite prepare him for his latest job interview in 2020. The volunteer assistant for Northwestern women’s lacrosse was up for a promotion, but he had to pass through a rigorous process to earn it.

Northwestern had lost a key element of its coaching staff in Tim McCormack, who left for the head coaching gig at Arizona State the previous summer. McCormack oversaw the defense and goalies and played a major role in recruiting.

The opening was there for Hiller, who had served as a volunteer assistant for the Wildcats since 2001. His boss (and wife) Kelly Amonte Hiller ultimately decided to promote her husband.

“When he got promoted, he presented at our all-staff meeting at school,” Kelly Amonte Hiller said. “He said, ‘Yes, this is the longest interview process in the history of college sports.’”

Over the past year-plus, the Hillers have hit the ground running, splitting recruiting duties and easing the load on Kelly Amonte Hiller’s plate entering 2021. Her husband, a former high-volume scorer at UMass, took a key role in overseeing the Northwestern offense, while she shifted her focus to the defense.

Now, with Northwestern unbeaten heading into a Championship Weekend matchup with Syracuse on Friday afternoon, the Scott Hiller experiment is paying dividends. The Wildcats boast the nation’s leading offense, scoring 20.60 goals per game, and sit 16th in Division I allowing just over 10 goals per game.

Kelly Amonte Hiller joined host Sheehan Stanwick Burch on the latest episode of “The Stick Drop” podcast to talk about the experience of coaching with her husband. You can listen to the episode now on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

She knew he’d provide valuable expertise, and she’s happy with his impact on the program.

“After the first year, we hit a good cadence,” she said. “Scott has stepped up in certain roles where he really couldn’t before. He could step in and take responsibility away from me and help me. We’ve stuck with it, and so far, so good.”

Scott Hiller had provided plenty of help for his wife as a volunteer for Northwestern, but his duties were limited. He wasn’t able to recruit given his volunteer status, but he could provide support during games.

Once McCormack departed to help boost the Arizona State program, Kelly Amonte Hiller knew there was a void on the recruiting trail. She wanted to be there to support her daughters, Harlee and Lew, in Evanston, Ill., but she’d have to travel across to the country to recruit the next generation of Northwestern lacrosse stars.

At that point, she began thinking about adding her husband as a full-time assistant.

“We evaluated and said, from a family perspective, it’s tough on me to always constantly have to be going on the road and recruiting,” she said. “We felt like that would give us the chance to split this opportunity.”

She knew the move was mostly unprecedented, but she felt that his personality and skills fit what the program needed with the loss of McCormack. The recruiting process became a family effort.

“Scott’s strength as a person is just his ability to connect with people,” she told Stanwick Burch. “He has a great eye for talent, as well. We said, ‘Why don’t we just try this for one year?’ That’s how I presented it to our athletic director.”

Northwestern lacrosse gained an assistant coach with a wealth of head coaching experience. Paired with fellow assistant Shelby Fredericks and director of operations Nicole Beardsley, Kelly Amonte Hiller felt confident in the direction of her program.

Plus, she gets more time to spend with her kids in the summers.

“It’s been really great,” she said.

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