The confluence of prep sports and former professional athletes is beginning to look like a growing trend in Arizona.
Most recently it has been football that has attracted these retired athletes who want to become involved in coaching at the high school level. But basketball took the spotlight with the recent hire of Curtis Millage to take over as head coach of the boys’ basketball program at Shadow Mountain High School.
Millage’s hire follows the off-season additions of pro athletes to coaching positions at a number of other schools in the Phoenix area.
Those include George Hawthorne at Skyline High School, Ty Detmer at Casteel High, and Brandon Johnson at Betty Fairfax HS. Brophy Prep hired Jason Jewell to run its program and while Jewell isn’t a former pro, the man he replaced, Jon Kitna, left the Broncos’ program to join the NFL Dallas Cowboys as quarterbacks coach.
Hawthorne, who leaves his position as defensive line coach at Chandler High to become Skyline’s new head football coach, spent two seasons with the Cleveland Browns and also played for the Arizona Rattlers. Johnson played seven seasons as a linebacker in the NFL, two of those as an Arizona Cardinal, decided in April to leave Gilbert High School, where he was the defensive coordinator to take the Fairfax job. And Detmer, who was a Heisman trophy winner at BYU and spent 14 years in the NFL, has joined the staff at Casteel and will likely be molding new young quarterbacks and contributing to building the team’s offense.
However, the hiring of Millage at Shadow Mountain a week ago naturally has drawn a significant amount of attention from the media because his is replacing the man who led that east Phoenix school to five state championships in his six years as volunteer head coach.
Shadow Mountain has suffered through more than its share of bad press this past year following an investigation into an alleged sexual abuse complaint by a female teacher against Bibby. The six-week investigation by the City of Phoenix Police Department resulted in the announcement that the allegations “did not reveal probable cause to recommend charges against anyone in the case” and the case was closed.
But Bibby was immediately removed from his volunteer position when the allegations surfaced. And the search for a new head coach to take over what was becoming a basketball dynasty obviously has understandably drawn a lot of interest and attention over the past four months.
And that puts the glare of the spotlight squarely on Millage, who has been working as an assistant coach at Chandler-Gilbert Community College.
Millage played professionally overseas for 14 years and his hire continues to illustrate Shadow Mountain’s interest in hiring basketball coaches with deep experience on the professional courts. Bibby, too, played 14 years as an NBA point guard after leading the University of Arizona to an NCAA championship in 1997.
Bibby was well-known to fans throughout the state. In addition to leading the Wildcats to a national title, he was a three-time Arizona Player of the Year during his high-school career at Shadow Mountain and led the Matadors to the school’s first state championship in 1996.
Millage, too, has local ties, but not to the extent that Bibby enjoyed. Millage played two seasons at Arizona State, where he was a starter for all 58 games in which he played.
Bibby’s successor inherits a team with some returning talent, but without the services of its All-State back court from last year. Jaelen House will be in a Sun Devil uniform next year and Jovan Blacksher was picked up by Grand Canyon University.
That will make it all the more difficult for Millage to try to pick up where Bibby left off. The string of four consecutive titles may have finally come to an end.
Looks like someone else may finally get a turn at winning next seasons’s 4A state crown.