Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A look at George Mason's new coach, Nyla Milleson

George Mason has a new coach and she is Nyla Milleson. Milleson replaces Jeri Porter, whose contract was not renewed after five seasons.

Milleson was fired  from Missouri State University on March 19; the school has since hired former NC State coach Kellie Harper. The Bears finished last season 14-17, falling by 15 points in the play-in game of the Missouri Valley Tournament. The Bears did not return a starter from the 2011-12 team that advanced to the WNIT's third round.

Milleson had been Missouri State coach since 2007. It took just two seasons before she led the Bears to three consecutive 20-win seasons and back-to-back titles in the MVC. In 2009-10, Casey Garrison was named the Jackie Stiles MVC Player of the Year; Stiles, the NCAA's all-time leading scorer is a Missouri State graduate.

Speculation on Milleson's firing has centered on the decline of the women's basketball fan base. The Bears averaged 2,606 for home games last season. In Milleson's first season, Missouri averaged 5,158. While traditionally women's basketball is not considered a revenue maker, Missouri's new home, JQH Arena, cost a whopping $67 million to build in 2008, and the school continues to seek a revenue stream. Missouri State has already announced that season tickets for lower level seats will be reduced from $259 to $120 for the 2013-14 season.

The Patriots, who finished 9-21 last season, 10th in the CAA, will receive a boost from 5-9 sophomore Taylor Brown. Brown, a former All-Met Player of the Year, transferred from Georgetown, where she started 12 games. She sat out last season due to NCAA rules.

Previously, Milleson coached at Division II Drury, having started the women's basketball program there in 1999. In her fourth season, she led Drury to the NCAA national championship, where the Lady Panthers fell by three to California (Pa.).

As for attendance, the Patriots -- new members of the Atlantic 10 -- have nowhere to go but up, having averaged 633 last season.

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