Damion McMiller wants to bring stability to a program that has had four varsity head coaches in the past three seasons.
The Bay Area product with an extensive background in coaching, recruiting and counseling has taken on the lead role for the Weston Ranch girls basketball team.
“I'm in it to win it and I'm not going anywhere,” McMiller said. “There are a lot of good kids in the Weston Ranch area and I don't want to lose any more talent to someplace else.”
McMiller replaces Mike Williams, who stepped down after one season. The Cougars showed promise belt fell short of a postseason berth, finishing 11-15.
“Mike did a really good job of helping change some of the culture,” Athletic Director Brett Lewis said. “He did a lot with stuff with fundraising and laying down that foundation. He left the program in a good spot for Mac to keep building.”
Lewis said McMiller expressed interest in the position soon after Williams resigned. McMiller was already working on campus as a counselor through Valley Community Counseling, and considering his vast experience in working with teenagers and young adults this was a slam-dunk decision for school administrators.
“He knows how to talk to people and is really personable,” Lewis said. “On campus he has a good rapport with a lot of the students. This was a no-brainer for us. I feel like it's a really good hire.”
This is McMiller's second stop as a varsity head coach — he previously led Edison's varsity girls for three years, and the Vikings made the playoffs in his final season there in 2013-14.
A graduate of St. Joseph Notre Dame High in Alameda, McMiller began coaching in 2002 as a freshman assistant for the Bear Creek boys team. He bounced around from there taking on different supplemental roles, serving two stints at Lincoln High in Stockton, where he was previously as varsity assistant under Chris Roemer the past four years.
McMiller has also coached with the Stockton Mustangs Amateur Athletic Union program, was an assistant and helped with recruiting for the Delta College women's team and most recently worked with the Chabot College men's team as a recruiter and mentor. In addition, he works as a talent evaluator for college scouting services in the summertime, seeking out the diamonds in the rough at local gyms.
McMiller is placing a heavy emphasis on academics and accountability for his players at Weston Ranch.
“Our main thing is that these kids are productive citizens in their community,” he said. “These kids can do anything as long as they work for it, and I'm going to be there for them to make sure they have what they need to learn.”
Make no mistake; McMiller also aims to turn Weston Ranch into a championship-caliber team.
The Cougars have not reached the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs since 2014-15, the final year for Chris Bauer as head coach before he returned as a fill-in early in the 2018-19 season. The Ranch had its best years under Bauer, who held the position for the program’s first 11 years. In one five-year stretch, he led it to four runner-up finishes in the competitive Valley Oak League.
McMiller has young talent to work with, such as freshman Janay Holmes, who played on the varsity, and Kimani Wilburn from the JV squad, but expectations will be the same for every player.
“I'm just going to be honest, I want them all to be leaders,” he said.
McMiller plans to employ a defense-first approach that capitalizes on the program's depth and athleticism. Offensively, he wants his players to be versatile.
He has already begun met with his players via Zoom to organize workouts. He also keeps tabs on their school work and communicates regularly with parents.
“I've been at Weston Ranch since the beginning of the year, so I've seen everything from Day 1,” he said. “I'm just going to do some different things, like starting a freshman tournament. Everybody needs to know where Weston Ranch is, because it's a good place.”