Jamie Mills has announced that he is retiring after seven years coaching the Pineville Lady Mountain Lion basketball team.
Mills is the winningest coach in the program’s history with an overall mark of 121-73. His teams have posted a program record six straight winning seasons, won three 51st District Championships, won back-to-back district and this past season became the first girls or boys team from Pineville win the 51st District and 13th Region All “A” championships in the same year.
“When I took the job everybody told me we would have good years and bad years, that’s a small school thing. I’m extremely competitive and I thought: I like winning too much to just do that.
In Mills’ first season (2014-15) the Lady Lions went 10-15, but improved as the year went along. To motivate the girls during that offseason, Mills pulled up the historical records of all the Pineville girls basketball teams. There were only about five winning seasons and the school record for most wins was 22 from back in the 70s.
“I told them they were good enough to get that record and then next year we went from 10 wins to 22,” Mills said. “I had to give them something to play for because it’s a long way from the All ‘A’ to the District. We did that and we ended up winning the district that year also.”
The next year the girls wanted to beat that mark and they came back and won 23 games.
Mills said one thing that’s really helped the program to grow and be more competitive is allowing girls who cheer during football season to only focus on basketball during basketball season.
“I remember my second year we were getting ready to play South Laurel in the regional tournament and their coach asked me about all of my girls cheering,” Mills said. “Six out of my top seven cheered and they would have to either practice cheering before basketball or they would have to leave my practice to go cheer. I worked with the administration and they agreed to let them cheer during football and just focus on playing during basketball season.”
The Lady Lions went 18-12 in finished as district runners-up in 2018. That year’s seniors had been with Mills since he took over and the team went through a transition season in 2018-19 but still put together a 16-14 record. The last two seasons the Lady Lions have been back on top with back to back district championships and a 13th Region All ‘A’ championship in 2021.
“We had a foundation here, but I wanted to build that consistency of being a good solid program,” Mills said. “I didn’t want Pineville to be the team people wanted to schedule for homecoming or think they could just pencil in a win.
“I’m really proud that we were able to beat some of the bigger schools to the point where some of them won’t schedule us any more. “
Mills is also retiring after this school year as Pineville’s FRYSC Coordinator. He said he said it was a good time to go out with seniors Whitney Caldwell, Raigan King, Summer Partin and Virginia Hall.
2021-22 may be a bit of a rebuilding year without those four senior starters, but the future looks bright for Lady Lions basketball. The incoming freshmen just won the Middle School All ‘A’ Tournament, Abby Jackson will be back as a junior point guard and Ava Arnett emerged down the stretch as the team’s first player off the bench. If Makenna Partin and Mackenzie Widener can come back after missing this past season due to injuries Pineville may be more competitive than expected.
“I’ve got 27 years in my job here. I wanted to finish with Whitney and those girls and follow them out,” Mills said. “They need somebody young with this group coming in. They’re going to be young and they’ll have to work hard these next couple of years to stay competitive. They need somebody with that energy to work like I did seven years ago.”