Bringing experience to the hoops


Joanna Mikolajczak

Head basketball coach Josh Mills ran team drills to prepare for upcoming season.

Josh Mills, North Lake Campus new head basketball coach, comes with extensive training not just as a community college coach, but as someone who has trained NBA stars.

Mills started out as a volunteer assistant coach to help Head Coach McGraw back in 2003 until 2007.

Mills first paying coaching job was at Highland Community College in Kansas during the 2008 season.

Highland is a town of about 500 people. Mill said that there are no stop lights; just one blinking light and the only food you can get outside of the cafeteria was gas station pizza.

Mills said during the summer, coaches would go to Las Vegas and train professional NBA players. They did this for two years. 

Mills trained about  60 players each year. He said most of the players he trained are either retired or coaching.  

“It was a neat experience to see their level of commitment to their bodies and to their training,” Mills said. “It was interesting to see what working towards being in the NBA meant.”

The players Mills was training  were doing a lot of work to make their dreams come true. He said they were very disciplined in diets, training and staying motivated.

Mills motivation started when he was in Bowie Middle school. After school he would go to the Senter Park Recreation Center and tune his skills.

“That is when I started to focus on basketball,” Mills said. He played all the way through high school and came up to North Lake after school to practice his moves. 

That is where he met Coach McGraw, the head basketball coach who retired this past spring.

After high school Mills went to the University of North Texas, but was told to come play basketball at a junior college.

“So, I came back here to North Lake, because Coach Tim McGaw had wanted me to come play for him,” Mills said.

However, when Mills sent his transcripts in he didn’t realize he had a failed anatomy class and was ineligible. 

“Because of that Coach McGraw had me help him out by being a volunteer coach,” said Mills. “ I have been a coach ever since.”

After his first job at Highland Community College, Mills traveled all over the Untied States coaching. 

He worked at Independence Community College for two years. Mills had a pretty good team, a lot of division one players.

During the summers there he coached a summer high school team that received the number two player in the country. 

“I think we had ten guys on the team and nine of them went to division one and that helped me get in touch with other coaches that wanted to recruit our players,” Mills said.

It helped him build a relationship with the other coaches and then after my second year at Independence, one of the coaches liked him enough Billy Gillispie to hire him at Texas Tech. 

Gillispie and Mills didn’t do too hot and Mills ended up getting fired. Mills earned a life long friend and a mentor in Gillispie. 

Mills was hired by Florida Gulf Coast University, where he said the students would show up to class in bikini tops and shorts, or muscle shirts and he didn’t understand what was happening. 

“They were going to class like this and there were no classes on Fridays. I had never see this at a college before,” Mills said. “It definitely felt like a party type school.” 

Then he got picked up at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. He had one student, John Collins, who is now in the NBA for the Atlanta Hawks. Mills said he was a really athletic and dedicated player. 

The last school he worked at before taking a break from coaching was Ranger College. He was helping Coach Gillispie when he had got sick at the beginning of the year. 

Mills took over as head coach for the rest of the year and was burnt out on being a coach.

“I tried different jobs. I did personal training, medical device sales and then I ended up needing to get back into coaching,” Mills said. “It’s like a sickness almost. It’s because it is a lifestyle, if anyone likes coaching as a job, they won’t be successful because it is a lifestyle not a job.”

Mills said that you are intertwined with players. Not just with their academics, but their health, diet, where they are going to go to school, professional careers and even their personal lifestyle to an extent. 

He missed the best and worst parts of coaching, so he moved back to Dallas and started a decorative and staining concrete company while coaching at North Lake with McGraw again.

Mills was very fortunate to learn from Coach McGraw on how to be successful at this level. “A lot of it is outworking people,” Mills said.

However, he sees himself replicating more of Coach Gillispie in practice with intensity levels and similar drills.

“Picking the players is something that Coach McGraw and I have perfected over the years,” Mills said.

The way the coaches and Mills pick their players and get their teams together is to start out by talking to people. 

He has reached out to 175 kids this season and touched based on their interests and if they are wanting to come to North Lake or not.

He then narrows it down to 20-24 students. From there He can get about 15 of them into classes together. 

There are other coaches that don’t take that same approach, but Coach McGraw was so successful that Mills wants to follow in his footsteps. 

“When students are in dorms on campus you know where they are at all the time, but when you don’t you assume they are doing what they are supposed to be doing,” Mills said.

However, with the filtering process he tries to figure out who would be a good fit. Then figures out who is focused on the team and school versus other distractions. 

With Mills being the only full-time coach, it makes it difficult to stay on top of their academics and the details he is used to with having worked at big universities. 

Mills said, “At those places each of us on staff had about four players we were in charge of and you had to know when their assignments are due, make sure they are getting them turned in.”

Mills makes sure they get tutoring or the help they need to succeed and not fall behind. 

He has to keep the players healthy and eligible to play. 

Mills tries to do that here and even though it can’t be done at the same scale, he has really good assistants that come and help him when they can. 

“They have been a huge help at keeping everything organized so that we can stay on top of the students,” Mills said.

He personally recommend what classes to take to his incoming freshman for their first semester. So that most of them are in the same class at the same time and it helps him help them be successful academically. 

His number one goal is to get these guys scholarships to four-year schools. 

Mills said some students don’t get scholarships but they get scholarship level players and then go play against scholarship schools. 

Last year, the team beat nine out of thirteen scholarships teams and this year they go again ten teams.

Those games against the scholarship schools are what these four-year schools want to see. 

Mills sends the film to the coaches to try and get the players recruited. 

“They get noticed by their ability to play basketball and then it goes into their academics,” Mills said. 

Mills said discipline and student decision making is also something recruiters look into.

Mills said recruiters usually ask, “‘Are you able to pass classes?’ ‘How are you with your teammates off and on the court?’ ‘Are you smoking or drinking and does that hinder your playing ability?’ ‘Are you really into girls and that distracts you? Are you really into video games and does that distract you?.’”

The recruiters look into all of that because they are going to pay these students to be on their team essentially. 

“There is a lot of money involved with these students and the coaches make millions of dollars,” Mills said. “Coach [Danny] Manning made two million dollars a year. Coaches can get fired if these students fool around and mess up, so they really focus on who to pick for their teams.”

Mills said, “North Lake is a great location and that makes it easier to get players.” 

He doesn’t find taking McGraw’s place intimidating because he is up for the challenge, and is confident because he has learned from McGraw, and he  doesn’t feel like he is going to fail. 

Mills is not sure if  he will win four national championships that McGraw won during his time with the team. He is however, confident that he can bring our team to victory.

“Coach Mills has been an assistant at North Lake for six years,” said McGraw. “He already has been a big part of our success and he will do a super job as the head coach. I am proud of him.”

To follow Coach Mills and the Blazers go to Twitter @Josh_mills and @NorthLakeNBB.

“I am really happy to be here,” Mills said. “I grew up here and went to school here. So, it feels good to have everyone come to watch my team and these students’ success.”