Setting familiar to UTM skipper
Posted: Friday, March 18, 2011 12:02 am
ALMOST TIME — UT Martin head coach Kevin McMillan (right) smiles on the bench along with current assistant and former Westview boys’ mentor Brian Haskins. The Skyhawk women will play near the area where McMillan grew up in North Carolina when they tip off against Duke on Saturday in the NCAA tourney. UT Martin’s Taylor Hall pulls up during the Skyhawk women’s victory in the championship game of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament in Nashville. The Skyhawk women’s first-round game against Duke will be broadcast. It is the first NCAA Tournament game for the UT Martin women’s basketball program.
For Kevin McMillan, nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina.
“If you play basketball in March, there’s no better place to play than in North Carolina,” grinned the UT Martin women’s coach, who will return to his native roots when the Skyhawks play in Durham against sixth-ranked Duke Saturday in the first round of the NCAA Women’s Tournament.
McMillan is from Winston-Salem — he says “about an hour-and-a-half” from Cameron Indoor Stadium — where his 15th seeded UTM squad will try and knock off the No. 2-seeded Blue Devils.
The experience of getting a program to “The Big Dance” for the first time ever in just his second year as a head coach on the collegiate level is proving to be indeed a whirlwind ride for McMillan and his team.
He appeared on ESPNU via telephone on Tuesday and the Skyhawk women — with the least-experienced Division I roster in the country coming into the season — are the subject of a USA Today article on Friday.
There have been countless other requests for interviews and the coach’s time from various outlets since UT Martin won its first-ever Ohio Valley Conference championship 12 days ago to command the media spotlight, locally, regionally and nationally.
And McMillan seems right at home in that glare.
“You can’t put a price tag or measure everything that happened here tonight,” he said after more than 250 showed up at the Boling Center’s Watkins Auditorium on the UT Martin campus to watch the ESPN broadcast of the women’s bracket unveiling. “We packed this place, had over 250 people here or whatever it holds, watching ESPN to see where the women’s basketball team was going to play.
“We’ve had a lot of media here from all around, too, and that’s good for our program and our kids. They’re deserving.”
IN THE HUNT — Three UTM regular season opponents made the 64-team tournament field — all in the same bracket.
A pair of Southeastern Conference members Kentucky and Vanderbilt, along with Louisville of the Big East, all were placed in the Spokane Region.
Vandy, a seventh seed, was actually matched against Louisville — a No. 10 — in an opening round game.
Kentucky earned a four-seed and will play No. 13 Hampton in Round 1 of this year’s NCAA Tournament.
The Skyhawks lost on the road to all three teams, by 25 vs. Louisville, by 19 against Kentucky and via a 72-60 margin vs. Vanderbilt.
Kentucky was the lone common opponent between UT Martin and Duke, the Blue Devils edging UK 54-48.
DID YOU KNOW? — Tennessee basketball fans will notice a familiar face on the Duke bench in Blue Devil assistant coach Al Brown. Brown was an aide to Lady Vol skipper Pat Summitt during UT’s last national championship season and also served as an assistant to Wade Houston with the Tennessee men at one juncture during his long coaching career. … Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie is in her fourth season at the school and became the first NCAA Division I women’s coach to be named Coach of the Year in four different leagues.
McCallie also is the first coach to lead teams to conference championships in four different leagues on the women’s college basketball scene.