The athletic facilities at Naples High School might be all new since he played there, but Garrett Hull still feels at home on the Golden Eagles basketball court.
Hull is returning to where he starred as a prep player, this time as coach. A three-sport athlete and 2004 graduate of Naples High, he recently was hired to coach the boys basketball program after three years as the head coach at Immokalee.
“It’s going to feel good to walk those old hallways,” Hull said. “The gym, the weight room – even though it’s all brand new, it still has the same feel to it. All our old pictures are up on the wall. It means a lot going back to my alma mater.”
In his senior season at Naples (2003-04), Hull was named the Daily News Boys Basketball Player of the Year after averaging 28.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.4 steals per game. A 6-foot-4 guard, he earned a scholarship to Florida Southern and played all four years (2004-08) at the Division II college.
Hull replaces Pierre Eaton, who led Naples to some of its most success seasons in decades. Eaton resigned after nine years with the Golden Eagles and 23 in Collier County to spend time with his family.
The Eagles went 140-102 under Eaton. Naples won four district championships, including this year. The program hadn’t won a district title since 1995 before Eaton arrived.
“Pierre has done a great job establishing a program,” Hull said. “We start (summer workouts) on Monday. Hopefully we can start making another run at a district championship.”
Before Eaton led Naples to the 2010 district title in his first season, Naples hadn’t been to FHSAA regionals since 2002. Hull was a sophomore on that team. He also played football and ran track for the Golden Eagles.
Hull has experience erasing postseason dry spells. He led Immokalee to its first district championship in 16 years this past season.
In Hull’s first season at Immokalee (2015-16), the Indians won just four games. They went 10-16 the following year before a 14-13 record in 2017-18.
Though the team hovered around .500, they did it missing one of their top players because of injury. The Indians got hot late, winning six of their final seven games to claim the district trophy and make it to the regional playoffs for the first time since 2011.
With Hull’s exit, Immokalee has an opening in its boys basketball program. Indians athletic director Joe Lee Gallegos said the school currently is searching for a new coach.
Hull loved the tight-knit community bond in Immokalee as well as the work ethic of the players. He said it was hard to leave, but his No. 1 reason for leaving was family, not just a chance to coach his alma mater.
Hull and his fiancée, Gigi, have a 2-month-old baby. They live in Naples, and Hull made the 40-minute commute to Immokalee every day. He’s happy to now be working 10 minutes from home, giving him extra time to spend with the baby and keeping him close in case of emergencies.
“Immokalee is a really special place,” Hull said. “It’s hard leaving, but the deciding factor was my family.”
Naples went to regionals last season, its fifth trip to the state tournament under Eaton. Late in the year the Eagles won 12 of 13 games, including a victory in the first round of the playoffs, to get to the regional semifinals. Their only loss in that streak was to Hull’s Immokalee team.
Hull was an ESE Inclusion teacher at Immokalee High and also co-taught an Algebra I class. He said he will work in the same teaching positions at Naples High.