November 29, 2012
Milligan takes coaching reins at CHS
Former Purple Tiger has big shoes to fill
For the first time in 21 seasons, the Cortland High boys’ basketball team will have a new head coach when it opens up Friday evening against the hosts in the first round of the Sherburne-Earlville Tournament.
Jeremy Milligan, a former Purple Tiger player who has coached in the CHS program including the last four years as a varsity assistant, has big shoes to fill. He takes over for Mick Lowie, who was at the helm for 23 years in all and left last spring with a career record of 279-207 — the most wins by a coach in the program’s history.
Milligan, a social studies teacher at Cortland High, played three seasons of varsity ball for Lowie as a guard. He earned all-league honors as a senior and graduated from CHS in 1997. He is the 10th-leading career scorer in school history with 750 points and was a varsity assistant under Lowie the last four seasons.
He played college ball at St. Lawrence, graduating in 2001, and came back to teach Social Studies and coach the freshman team for three seasons before moving to Boston for three seasons, teaching (at Hamilton Wenham Middle School) and coaching (one year as a varsity assistant and two at the freshman level). He then taught at Camillus Middle School for one year before returning as a coach and varsity assistant in 2008.
“Mick and I have a special bond,” Milligan said. “I was fortunate enough to play on the varsity team for three seasons and to be one of his assistants the last four seasons. The best piece of advice he gave me was that as a coach you need to be able to treat every player on your team and in the program like he’s your own son. It was a little tough to comprehend until I became a father (Milligan and his wife Alyssa are the parents of two sons, three-year-old Tristan and two-year-old Cole).
“Another valuable thing I learned from Mick is that you can never prepare your players too much for a game. He was meticulous in doing that and establishing game plans which, if executed, usually resulted in wins. I was also fortunate to work with and learn from Rick Miller, who was a volunteer assistant coach for 17 years, and learned as much from him as Mick. Their dynamic in practice was such that Mick was focused while Rick helped to keep things light. It’s important to make sure the players are prepared for games and also that they enjoy themselves on a daily basis, to keep the passion going during what is the longest sports season.”
For his part, Lowie approves the transition. “I’m very happy that Jeremy’s my replacement,” he said. “He’s a former player, coached the freshman team three years and, after coming back from Boston, was a varsity assistant the last four years. To have one of my former players taker over is kind of a thrill; it’s very cool. I’m very happy with it.
“Jeremy played forward for me for three years, graduating in 1997, and was very good, an all-leaguer, extremely hard-working, Since I took over for the second time in 1992, he’s one of a handful of players, the second after Travis Rocco, who deserve lots of credit for turning the program around. We played in a Class AA league until he was a senior, so we knew we had to get better in a hurry.”
Lowie has remained in contact with Milligan and made himself available to help when needed. “Both Mick and Rick have made themselves 100 percent accessible, which has been a source of comfort for me,” Milligan said. “We talk often, and it hasn’t been as much X’s and O’s has it has about other aspects of the position.
“Rick did a lot of the behind-the-scenes work, the paperwork and organizing, and it helps to know what he did in that regard.”
“We either talk or e-mail every other day or so involving questions Jeremy has on various aspects of coaching, though not X’s and O’s...he’s solid there,” Lowie said. “I told them that whenever he needs something I’ll be here, I’m not going anywhere. It’s his program and he’ll do things his way, but he knows all he has to do is ask (for help if needed).”
For his part, Lowie feels that his best piece of advice to Milligan was “Just believe in what you’re doing, what you’re teaching the kids. There are going to be good and bad times. When you’re going through bad times, if you believe in what you taught and how you taught it, things will work out.”
Joining Milligan on the Cortland bench this winter will be former JV assistant Tom Neugebauer and Francis Loiacono, who has previously been a varsity assistant. Yale Hughes returns as head junior varsity coach, assisted by Tim Guido and newcomer Sean Babcock. All five coaches on the varsity and JV levels are CHS alumni and were players in the basketball program.
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