Northeast Tarrant

Mustangs’ new coach brings flexible system

Grapevine’s new boys basketball coach, Jeremy Mills, needed to consolidate his life. In the greater Houston area, he coached at Pasadena Sam Rayburn. His wife taught in another district. His children attended school in yet another district.

With so many moving parts and the opportunity Grapevine presented, the 38-year-old Mills pursued it. In late April, the GCISD board approved him as Kevin Starnes’ successor. Starnes left to become an assistant principal at Colleyville Heritage.

“The No. 1 thing was for my family to be together,” Mill said. “I could not think of a better place than Grapevine. The community has been very supportive. The players are awesome.”

Former AD Phil Blue kept his legacy going in GCISD with this hire. When he was at Georgetown, Mills served as a boys assistant for nine seasons. Mills moved on to Gonzalez, where he spent one year before moving to Sam Rayburn.

In fives years, Mills took a program that traditionally wasn’t known for basketball success and built respectability. His teams won 88 games (nearly 18 wins per season) even though that included a nine-win rebuilding season. Sam Rayburn’s 2012 playoff appearance was its first since 1988. The program returned to the postseason in 2014.

Mills called this 2015 team his best. However, a stacked district that included Manvel, Pearland and Pearland Dawson made the journey tougher. Despite 22 wins, the team missed the playoffs.

At Grapevine, he’s going to a program where there have been playoff appearances. Moving past the first round has been the issue. Grapevine hasn’t won a playoff game in what is believed to be 30 years (1985). In 2014-2015, the Mustangs went 18-11 and finished third in District 6-5A, but were ousted in the bi-district round by White Settlement Brewer, 45-39.

Mills brings a system that he can adjust to whatever personnel he has. Traditionally, he’s liked his teams to shoot three-pointers, push the ball and use the transition game as much as possible.

Defensively, Mills wants to pressure the ball and advocate a zone pressing team. As long as his teams can direct the ball, turnovers can result. His teams will also trap. There’s no better defense than to trap the ball as it crosses half court and making either the mid-court stripe or sideline serve as another defender.

But Mills is going to adjust to his new team. Junior 6-6 center Andrew Lastinger has a chance to evolve as one of the better big men in the district, if not Tarrant County. Mill wants to develop a system where the ball can first go in to Lastinger and then the rest of the offense can develop.

“He’s going to be our first option,” Mills said. “He’s a pretty good passer, so if we draw people to him, it sets up other people. He was a 10 [point], seven [rebounds] a game player. So it’s exciting to see what we can do.”

Mills should be moved into this area by the summer. His assistants have been running the offseason program. The team is playing in a summer league that includes Burleson Centennial. Don’t look for many changes to the 2015-2016 non-district schedule. Grapevine is still scheduled to play in tournaments at Justin Northwest, San Angelo and Aledo.