Young coaches bringing energy

Published: Friday, November 1, 2002 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 31, 2002 at 10:24 p.m.
At this time last year, Santa Fe Community College men's basketball coach Scott McMillin was preparing for his first season as a head coach. Maybe he can give some pointers to Chanda Stebbins, who finds herself in the same position this year with the Lady Saints.
"I told her this league is tough," McMillin said. "You really got to go out and get top talent and recruit, and she's done that. She's brought in a lot of excitement and expectations."
In his first year, McMillin also placed lofty expectations on himself and his team.
"Our goal every year is to compete for state and conference titles and compete for national titles we really set ourselves up to do that," McMillin said.
He fell well short in his first try, finishing 11-19, but SFCC athletic director Jim Keites is pleased with the foundation the second-year coach laid.
"All the players have bought into (McMillin's) style," Keites said of the stress McMillin puts on conditioning and discipline. "Last year, some players just weren't ready for him.
"When you have people that don't buy into the program, you're going to have a problem, but that's gone this year."
Also gone is the bulk of last year's team. After departures and graduations, the Saints have 10 freshmen on their roster, but after having to play catch-up in recruiting last year, McMillin has "his guys" on the team.
"Last year, we weren't very deep, and it showed," Keites said. "We'd wear down because we were so thin. More importantly than recruiting them is conditioning them.
"It's (McMillin's) team, and there are no excuses."
McMillin isn't offering any. In order to prepare for a grueling 10-game Mid-Florida Conference schedule, which starts in January and ends in late February, McMillin scheduled a 20-game nonconference schedule, starting today with the two-day SFCC Tip-Off Classic, which features Pasco-Hernando Community College, South Carolina's Spartanburg Methodist College and Brunswick Community College of North Carolina.
The 30 games is the maximum a team is allowed to schedule. The nonconference slate is highlighted by three games against nationally ranked teams.
"The bottom line is, because we are young, going into the conference schedule we need our guys with as many games under our belt as possible," McMillin said. "I want our guys battle tested. In terms of our youth that is what is best for us."
McMillin figures that in order to win the conference, the Saints will have to dethrone last year's champs Daytona Beach CC, which along with Seminole CC, are the favorites to take the crown.
"Last year we struggled. This year, we're going to compete. We're going to pride ourselves on defending and rebounding. Offensively were going to play up-tempo," McMillin said. "This is my first full recruiting class, and I'm excited about that. It took some time to put my program and system in place.
"We got a chance to be pretty good. We got a brand-new look to us."
Four days after the men open their season, Stebbins and the Lady Saints open their schedule on the road against Hillsborough CC before returning for their home opener Nov. 7.
Stebbins, 29, served as an assistant coach at SFCC last season under Tammy Ruffian, who resigned to pursue a career outside of coaching.
The first-year coach, who signed a volleyball scholarship at the University of Florida in 1992 and was part of four SEC title teams and two Final Four teams, has bestowed upon her team the physical demands she pushed on herself as a volleyball player and basketball player at Florida.
"She came in and put such an importance on conditioning," Keites said. "I was watching practice, and she used some team conditioning drills I had never even seen before.
"Her players bought into it and stayed with it."
Stebbins hopes the conditioning will help the Lady Saints do something they haven't done in two years: Win a conference game.
"Whether we win one conference game or five or 10, the important thing is to establish a disciplined program," Stebbins said. "Getting all the things in place is the hardest thing (about being a first-year coach). The handbook, strength and conditioning programs, academics, once it's all installed it's a given."
Until then, Stebbins will have to depend on a strong team concept to be successful.
"Our success will come from the quality of our depth," she said. "There is no one MVP. Different players will have to step up in different games. I don't really expect to see one superstar step up."
Even without that go-to player, Stebbins is not daunted by Santa Fe's futility over the last two seasons. She plans to use an offensive strategy she calls "The Run and Gun with a Rhyme and Reason."
"Come and watch because we're going to be an exciting team from an energy standpoint," Stebbins said. "We haven't won a conference game in two years, but we're a different team than we've been the past two years."
Keites hopes that is the case for both programs because, following what he called down years from the men's and women's teams, he expects to see improvement.

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