We’re going to take Samford to the NCAA Championship–and we’re going to win

Bucky McMillan, Head Coach Samford University
Bucky McMillan, Head Coach Samford University

Today’s guest columnist is Bucky McMillan.

My love for the game of basketball runs deep. So does my love for Birmingham.

When I first became the head basketball coach at Mountain Brook High School some people would have laughed at the thought of Mountain Brook becoming a perennial powerhouse in the state of Alabama and a nationally recognized program.

At the time, it would have sounded a bit farfetched.

But we made seven appearances in the state finals and brought home the state championship five times. We were ranked in the top-25 in the nation four times and finished the season No. 5 in 2019. More than that, we made high school basketball popular in Mountain Brook. We played fast, we wore neon uniforms and we kept it exciting. We had more than 12,000 fans come out to support us at the BJCC. We were easily the most popular team in the state, and the impact we generated as a result will be felt for years to come.

Now as head coach at Samford University, we are going to do something that may seem just as unlikely.

We are going to take Samford to the NCAA Tournament—yes, The Big Dance. And when we get there, we’re going to win.

But more importantly,  we are going to do it right—with the values instilled in all Samford students.

I am a Birmingham guy. I grew up in Mountain Brook. I played college basketball at Birmingham-Southern College. I coached at Mountain Brook High School for 12 years. I have seen the impact that sports can have in a community and that is exactly what we are working towards at Samford.

I was hired as Samford’s men’s basketball coach on April 6, 2020 and with COVID, the first year has been quite a challenge. Eight of our 13 scholarship players had serious injuries with most requiring surgery. All but two players were quarantined. We had to cancel more games than anyone in the conference. And yet…

….we beat a Belmont team who finished 26-4 on the season. We were 1:17 away from upsetting the University of Georgia. We scored 174 points in our first outing of the year and 133 points just a few weeks later. But most importantly, we faced adversity, and we did so without fear. And in doing that, we took an important step in establishing the culture of Samford basketball.

Currently, building that culture is my top priority. My vision is a program rooted in hard work and confidence, that teaches our players to be unselfish leaders and men of uncompromising values. We are developing a culture for long-term sustained success, and I’m grateful that Samford’s mission, vision and values provide the foundation for that culture.

I’ll be honest; it’s not going to be easy. The SoCon is consistently one of the top-10 leagues in the country. We will face more adversity and we will encounter growing pains. But winning programs aren’t built overnight. If we stay true to those values and the culture we’re trying to build, we will win the SoCon, we will go to the NCAA Tournament, and we will make Samford a nationally recognized name.

And what does that future success mean for Birmingham? We only have to look 60 miles west to see the positive impact that a sports program can have on a university and a community. It means economic impact. It means increased student applications. It means television contracts, merchandise sales and increased revenue. It means Samford men’s basketball becoming another great team for Birmingham and for the state of Alabama.

That’s our vision for Samford men’s basketball. To engage and impact the Birmingham community. To provide a game day atmosphere that is fun, safe and affordable for the whole family. To win, on and off the court, we will outwork every person and every team–and to do it all with integrity, passion and a commitment to Samford’s mission.

I hope you’ll join us, because we’re building something special – for Samford and for Birmingham.

Visit samfordsports.com to learn more.

Bucky McMillan enters his second season as head coach of the Samford University men’s basketball team. While at Mountain Book High School McMillan was named USA Today’s Alabama Coach of the Year in 2019; Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) Coach of the Year in 2013, 2014 and 2015; Birmingham Tip-Off Club State Coach of the Year in 2012, 2015 and 2019; and Over The Mountain Coach of the Year in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2018 and 2019. He was selected to coach the Alabama All-Stars in the 2019 Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game. That same year, he was named one of the coaches of Michael Jordan’s “Jordan Brand” All-Star Classic.

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David Sher is the founder and publisher of ComebackTown.  He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).

Invite David to speak for free to your group about how we can have a more prosperous metro Birmingham. dsher@amsher.com.

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