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Russell, McMillan reuniting at UTM

Russell, McMillan reuniting at UTM
UT Martin women’s coach Kevin McMillan and David Russell are reuniting.
Russell, a long-time fixture in the rural West Tennessee high school coaching ranks with six state titles as a head coach, retired at the prep level Wednesday, resigning from his post as the mentor of the Class 2A state champion Gibson County girls.
Less than 24 hours later, he was announced — along with Stacie Evans — as part-time assistants within the UTM program to replace departing full-time assistant Jessica Grayson.
Meanwhile, GC also worked quickly to fill its coaching vacancy, moving boys’ coach and former Union City assistant Michael Hart into the girls’ head coaching office. Hart, an aide on the 2008 UC state champion team, was 20-30 in two seasons as the Gibson County boys’ coach.
According to published reports, Hart is expected to retain Russell’s son, Nathan, as an assistant. Hart also hopes to add his wife Christy (Hicks), who prepped at GC, to his coaching staff.
“It felt good to go out at the top and on my own terms,” the elder Russell said of his retirement from the prep game. “I don’t think everybody gets that opportunity, but the team and players we had did.
“It was probably the greatest season of my career and that last game might have been the greatest I’ve ever been a part of.”
In what was the final game of his high school coaching career, the Lady Pioneers overcame a 19-point third-quarter deficit to upend No. 1-rated McMinn Central and win their second consecutive state title.
The first Gibson County state crown came under McMillan’s leadership. During the last two seasons with McMillan (2008-09) and Russell (2009-10) as the head coaches, the Lady Pioneers compiled a 70-1 worksheet.
Those numbers alone and how well the duo worked together makes Russell excited at the prospect of a reunion with McMillan.
“His ideas on basketball and how I view the game mesh well,” Russell said. “He’s a great coach and I think I can contribute in some aspects that he’s maybe not able to as a head coach at the college level.”
Though at the college level, Russell will surely be familar with many of the faces he sees on the UTM roster.
Three of the seniors — Heather Butler, Aubrey Reedy and Heather Griffin — from this year’s Class 2A championship team have signed on to play for the Skyhawk women.
Two other players that Russell had to prepare for as a head coach in rugged District 13AA — Westview’s Grace Ann Swaim and Milan’s Perica Glenn — have also joined the UTM program.
UT Martin athletics director Phil Dane is pleased with the program’s restructuring.
“This restructuring adds another level of excellence to Coach McMillan’s plans to make our women’s basketball program one of the top programs in the country,” Dane said. From my perspective, adding Coach Russell and Coach Evans creates an all-star coaching line-up. Coach Russell’s resume speaks for itself, but I am excited about Stacie’s contributions as well.
“She’s a local person who will be an excellent role model and life-skills coach for the young women coming into this program.”
Evans, UT Martin’s academic support services coordinator in the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, will retain her current responsibilities in addition to her new assignment.

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