Monday, April 29, 2013

Getting to know new George Mason coach Nyla Milleson

LadySwish welcomes Nyla Milleson to the fold. Milleson is the recently hired coach at George Mason coach who spent her six previous years as head coach of Missouri State.

Milleson led the Lady Bears to three WNIT appearances in her tenure. Two years after arriving at the Springfield, Mo., school in 2007, the Lady Bears put together three consecutive 20-win seasons. Prior to her time there, Milleson was the inaugural coach at Division II Drury, where she compiled a 185-36 mark over seven seasons.

She shared her thoughts with us about herself and the future of George Mason basketball.

Talk about the transition from the Midwest to the East Coast.

Professionally, basketball is basketball, and I've had success building programs and maintaining programs, so I don't think they'll be a whole lot of difference from the recruiting standpoint. I'll need to get accustomed to the area, but that's where I'm going to find the best staff possible and find the connections that can help us make the quickest transition possible. George Mason is a great place; it's got great academics. We've got to stick our nose in here and get busy.

Personally, on the other hand, there's going to be a couple of adjustments. I've learned the key words are "depends on traffic." You look at your GPS and if it tells you six minutes, you plan on 20 or 30. So, obviously, the traffic is a big adjustment for me. The sticker shock of real estate is much different than it is in the Midwest, too.

My family is not coming with me for a year. My oldest (Barrett) is getting ready to graduate from Missouri State, and he might move out here quicker than my husband and my other son (Caylor). My other son is going to be a senior in high school. He plays football, and it will be hard to be away from him and miss his senior year. But basketball has afforded us a lot of great opportunities, and this is another one. I'm really lucky and blessed that I was able to climb in this profession in a unique way. I went from a high school coach to Division II to Division I in the same community. I'm excited  about the new adventure.

How much did you know about George Mason prior to becoming coach?

That the men were in the 2006 Final Four! As far as the women's basketball program, I really didn't, but when the job came open, I did a lot of research, and I think there are a lot of exciting things that could happen here. I think moving into the A-10 is probably great timing for a new coach and a new staff to start fresh. You see the campus and the facilities and the dorms on the Internet, and they're even more special when you get here and see them up close. When it comes down to it, I'm really a people person, and the biggest thing I was sold on is there are such good people here. We're going to have to work at it, but I think you combine all those things, and we'll be able to get some real quality student-athletes here.

George Mason has struggled to win consistently. What needs to be done to be successful there?

It's going to take finding that couple of diamond-in-the-rough type of kids, possibly. I think we've got one here now in Taylor Brown (5-7 sophomore transfer from Georgetown). She's got a chance to be really, really special at Mason. Sandra Ngoie (6-1 forward), the transfer from Georgia Tech; she's got a chance to be really special. I think there are some pieces here. We're going to have to get out and sell George Mason. One of our biggest keys is if we can just get those kids to campus. We've got an abundance of talent here. We've got to try to reach out to those local kids and try to get them to stay right here at George Mason. There are some kids in our back yard we've got to try to find a way to keep home and then try to spread out. Our staff is going to have to try to do a good job cultivating those relationship starting right at home. I think it can be done, and I think the move to the A-10 is going to help bridge that gap a little bit.

What did you want the team to take away after its first meeting with you?

I pride myself on discipline and self discipline and accountability for what we want to get done on the court and accountability for each other. We hope to bring a level of passion and energy every day. I'm big on trying to do the right thing on and off the floor on a daily basis. I'm just a small part of these kids' lives. I try to make them good basketball players who win championships, but really at the end of the day, I want them to get a George Mason education and get jobs and be successful people.

Change is always hard, but they've been very receptive to me and my personality, and that's one of the big keys to getting off on the right foot.

What will the next few weeks be like for you?

It's been a whirlwind. Me and the one assistant (Christopher Lewis) I have were out last weekend. My first order of business was to make sure I took care of our current team, and I made contact with the three kids coming in, and they're all coming. My first priority was to our current team. I've met with every one of them individually. We've had individual workouts, and I've tried to build that relationship and build that trust. Secondly, I've tried to get the right staff hired, but I'm going to be patient and make sure we get the right fit, and hand in hand with that is recruiting. We've got some relationships -- although some of them are Midwest kids. We've got some new relationships already, and hopefully they will consider George Mason when we get a new staff hired.

Attendance has never been great at George Mason. Is increasing support a priority for you?

I've been blessed and spoiled at the same time, because I came from a very tradition rich area in Southwest Missouri. Playoff time we'd play in front of 2,000 people at the high school level. When I started the program at Drury, we were at the top five or six of Division II year in and year out. Missouri State was also a great place for attendance. I think we have to be realistic about what we can do here as far as attendance. It can certainly grow. I'm not dumb. I know winning takes care of a lot of things. Through our camps, our recruiting efforts, through our community service -- that's big to me -- reaching out to faculty and students, I think it can grow.

How much time had you spent in the D.C. area prior to taking the job?

I had only been to Washington, D.C. once. I came with Missouri State two years ago. We played Morgan (State) and Georgetown and Coppin State. We were here about a week. I got to do some things with our team; we went to Georgetown Cupcake. We saw some of the monuments. I have been but I haven't really been to D.C., so that is an area I'd like to spend some time personally. I haven't been to New York City, either, so I'm looking forward to visiting.

We can't resist. What was it like being captain of the rodeo team while you attended Kansas State?

I grew up in a small western Kansas town. My grandfather was just put into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. He really, truly was one of the cowboy types. That's what I grew up doing. I rodeoed at K-State. I haven't ridden a horse in years, and my boys are about as city as they come. It was one of those parts of my life where I met some incredible people and traveled across the country and got to ride my horses.

I can rope cattle. That was my best event. And don't laugh. It was called goat tying. It was a neat part of my life. I enjoyed it.

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