Don That Neon


Luke-Robinson-BBallMountain Brook High School’s Bucky McMillan is a game changer.

By Luke Robinson

 

On the surface, you probably wouldn’t notice anything unique about Mountain Brook High School basketball coach Bucky McMillan. I know I didn’t when I first saw him at the AHSAA’s Final 48 in 2013. Why would I? I mean, at first glance at least?

He’s an average-looking guy. Average height. Personable enough: Not shy, but not overbearing. For a coach, he was dressed somewhere in the wide gap between the dapper Rick Pitino and disheveled Mike DuBose. Guess what? So is the rest of society. There is absolutely no reason to think McMillan is any different than any other coach at any other level of any other sport anywhere.

But he is different. Trust me.

Ironically, after I recently spoke to his mentor and legendary Birmingham-Southern coach Duane Reboul, I realized it’s McMillan’s average exterior that makes him even more fascinating. How many 29-year-old coaches do you believe could have guided Mountain Brook to a boys’ basketball state championship?

That question was not meant as a shot at the Spartans, but the school hasn’t exactly been Duke-Lite in the past. Before McMillan helmed the title run in ’13, the Spartans had never won the hoops crown. Many may even argue that the thought of that happening was optimistic at best (and certifiably crazy at worst). In fact, Mountain Brook had not been to Alabama’s Final Four until a scrappy little point guard led them there in 2001. That point guard’s name? Wait for it…Bucky McMillan. (Yes, the same one I am writing about. Why else would I give you this fact?!)

After my phone call to Reboul, I realized it wasn’t the championship that made McMillan unique. This guy was destined to hoist a trophy above his head way before he even considered taking the Mountain Brook gig. I had called Reboul, who no longer coaches BCS but does work there, to simply get background info on McMillan, hoping he would graciously oblige. He not only obliged, but waxed poetic about McMillan for the better part of a half hour. It was like listening to a proud father describe an accomplished son. Receiving compliments from Coach Reboul is probably not extraordinary. After all, he’s the nicest guy on the planet. But the honesty in his praise was abundantly clear. His flattering remarks were grounded in firsthand experience.

Before I ramble on, full disclosure here: Because of a deadline, I wrote this article in mid-February. If Mountain Brook happened to win the state title prior to the publication of this article, hey, lucky me. The Spartans’ success in the latest AHSAA tourney is irrelevant.

So what is this article for then? Some kind of a puff piece with no apparent point? Well, yeah. I think the guy deserves it. If you help bring your former high school to new heights, I’ll write something about you, too!

Look, Alabama needs some outside-the-lane thinking when it comes to hoops. Football here sells itself no matter the level, but basketball needs some…um…creative marketing to draw in the masses. McMillan has a firm grasp of that fact. Before he started running the show, the Brook’s boys’ basketball team couldn’t draw a crowd if it gave away Highlands Bar and Grill gift cards. Now the gym is packed tighter than Kim Kardashian’s Spanx. Just look at the innovative way Mountain Brook has played under McMillan. The defense is intense but disciplined. The offense is speedy but controlled. The in-bound plays, the press, and the teamwork are well-designed, suffocating, and unquestioned respectively.

The newfound fad of wearing neon MBHS gear? The very same trend that turned the BJCC into a glow stick in 2013? The gear you see all around Mountain Brook right now that makes it look like every resident has put safety first? That was a McMillan idea (and a damn good one. A very loud, good one.)

Maybe the best “hook” about the Spartans under McMillan are his substitution patterns, though. He sends players in and out with a completely planned system of controlled chaos. It’s like watching ants repair a damaged bed. From above, there is total confusion, but each worker has a purpose and knows exactly where to go. It is a contagious way to coach, too. McMillan is definitely paying attention to every detail of the game. Players better pay attention, too, because any one of them could be subbed in at any moment. Fans pay attention because the style is fun.

In the end, well…I have no end. At least not a good one.

In case you had been hiding in your cellar since the Snowpocalypse, I just wanted to make you aware that Birmingham has one more badass reason to check out high school hoops.

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