Whilst exchanging hugs from all those close to him after his last game in charge of Worthing Thunder, Daniel Hildreth saw an opportunity that he could not pass up.
He bumped into Thunder’s MVP Lyonell Gaines, for whom he had had spent near enough every day of the 2016-17 NBL Division 1 season with, not only coaching but guiding the American through his first year as a professional. The two were virtually inseparable but there was one thing Hildreth needed to do before they headed to the locker rooms.
Introduce Gaines to the person that has been with the outgoing coach since day one. His biggest supporter: wife Helen.
“It’s actually remarkable that Lyonell has never met my wife considering the mass amounts of time we have spent together during the season,” Hildreth said with a grin.
“It was great that they finally met even though I left it until the end of the season but my wife has been my biggest supporter along with my kids while I’ve coached this terrific group of guys and her support is priceless.”
“I finally met Helen, I wasn’t even sure if she existed,” Gaines joked.
“But it was really lovely meeting her for the first time and having a brief talk. Coach Danny has been like a brother to me and I am grateful for everything that he has done for me during my first season. He has sacrificed a lot for me this year and part of that sacrifice was spending more time with me than his own family. I’ll never forget that.”
Gaines has not been alone. Throughout his time with the club, both at senior and junior level, Hildreth always wanted to get the best out of his players and would spend as much time as humanly possible in order for them to achieve their potential.
And despite the emotion in his final game in charge, Hildreth stayed true to his coaching nature, refusing to talk about what his thoughts were on the occasion itself until he spoke about the game first, a narrow 113-110 loss to Essex Leopards after double overtime.
But when the game was said and done, his thoughts were shared, Hildreth’s tone changed. He was in deep thought about what he wanted to say, but was thankful for such a supporting family guiding him through a tough moment.
“It’s gutting to leave the senior team, I still can’t quite believe that the time has come to be honest,” Hildreth said.
“The guys have been outstanding this season. We’ve battled numerous injury setbacks and if we were at full strength, we might have been fighting for a Playoff spot and this season would have been extended but ultimately, I know that now the show and the club must go on. I’m not bigger than this club and hopefully next season, I can come down with my family and be a supporter, cheer the guys on and heckle the referees knowing that I won’t get a technical.
“But most importantly, starting this off-season, I’ll be able to spend time with my family, which I’m really looking forward to. I’ve dedicated a large portion of my life to this club and I feel that I’ve left my family in the backseat and now I can spend my time with my supportive wife Helen, go to my daughter’s dance and ballet competitions, my son’s basketball games and just enjoy being a family man.
The future for Hildreth’s role within the junior ranks still remains as he prefers to enjoy the off-season before making a decision, but he leaves Thunder having guided them to the Playoff final in his first season in charge back in the 2012-13 season, the Playoff quarter-finals in the 2014-15 campaign and the National Cup final in January 2016.