Spring Hill fills basketball, baseball posts
June 24, 2014 at 10 p.m.
The voids of head boys' basketball coach and head baseball coach have been filled at Spring Hill.
Tim Ender will take over the basketball program, replacing Luke Longino, who left after just one year at the helm.
Mike Eckles will be the new baseball coach. He will replace Joey Windham, who took a job at Union Grove.
"These are two men with integrity," Spring Hill athletic director Mike Sartain said. "They are both proven winners with experience.
"We hit a home run with Coach Eckles, no pun intended. And with Coach Ender, it's a slam dunk. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to land these two guys."
Ender has been to the playoffs the past two seasons, and now, he will look to help Spring Hill return to the postseason.
Spring Hill missed the playoffs this season after three consectuive playoff berths.
Ender comes to Spring Hill after spending the past five years at Danbury High School. He led Danbury to the area round of the playoffs the past two seasons, including a 19-9 record this season.
Before going to Danbury, Ender was at Pittsburg for 13 seasons, the final four as head basketball coach. Ender is a graduate of Winnsboro High School and Texas A&M University-Commerce and is looking forward to the opportunity to return to East Texas.
"My parents are getting older, and my son is going to be a sophomore, so I wanted to come back closer where they could watch him play," Ender said. "I know about the tradition here at Spring Hill and the reputation of being good at all sports. There appears to be a lot of excitement in the community, and I'm ready to help build this program."
Ender, who has a career record of 162-98, said his team will play strong man-to-man defense and will run an up-tempo offense with a lot of screens and ball movement.
Ender knows the Panthers will be in an athletic District 16-4A that includes Kilgore, Gilmer, Gladewater, Chapel Hill and Bullard, and he said they will have to be fundamentally sound in order to have success.
"We can't turn the ball over, and we have to be better with our transition defense," the new coach said. "We can't allow teams to get easy fast break points. We have to get back and make them set up their offense in the half court."
Ender will also teach special education at the junior high and will be an assistant varsity football coach and likely assistant track and field coach.
The West Texas native who has had plenty of success on the baseball diamond comes to Spring Hill hoping to win state championships.
"I like the allure of being at an established program with a winning tradition," Eckles said. "I want to build on the success this program has already had."
Spring Hill went 18-12-1 this season and advanced to the area round, a year after making a trip to the regional semifinals.
Eckles, who graduated from Lubbock Monterey, played baseball at Lubbock Christian and Texas Tech. He's coached for 24 seasons, 15 as a head coach, including the past two years at Jacksonville High School.
At Jacksonville, Eckles led a program that had won just nine games in four seasons to 17 wins in his two seasons. Before arriving in Jacksonville, Eckles went 45-24 in two seasons at Luling and had an 82-37 record in four seasons at Shallowater.
Eckles, who has 286 career victories, said his team will play "an exciting, aggressive style of baseball."
"We want to put the ball in play and steal bases," the coach said. "We want to drive the ball into the gap and move runners around.
"We need our pitchers to throw strikes and get ahead in the count, and our catcher needs to be a field general."
Eckles will also coach junior high football and teach junior high science.
Sartain also announced that Spring Hill has added Tyler Simmons to the coaching staff. Simmons will be the head girls' track and field coach and will also coach football and basketball.
Sartain was Simmons' head football coach at White Oak High School, Trinity Valley Community College and East Texas Baptist University.
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