Three former assistants to compete in AHSAA Elite Eight this weekend
By Will Hudson and Austin Streitmatter
High school coaches across Alabama breathed a collective sigh of relief on April 6, 2020, the day that Samford University announced the hiring of former Mountain Brook High School head basketball coach Bucky McMillan.
After 12 years at Mountain Brook, McMillan boasted an unimpeachable resume with 333 wins and five state championships. However, two years after his departure from high school basketball, his presence now is being felt more than ever.
Christian Schweers, head basketball coach at Huntsville High School; Tyler Davis, head basketball coach at Mountain Brook High School; and Stu Stuedeman, head basketball coach at Cullman High School, all have a few things in common. One is that they all used to be assistant coaches at Mountain Brook. Another is that they are all competing in the elite eight of the state tournament this weekend.
Bucky Ball didn’t exit one playing field to enter another, it just extended its reach.
When McMillan arrived at Samford, he inherited a team that has never recorded double-digit wins in the SoCon since it joined the conference in 2008. Currently with nine wins, Bucky and his Bulldogs are one win away from breaking that record in just year two. While he was dominant at Mountain Brook, building a program is not unfamiliar territory for McMillan.
“When he became the head coach at Mountain Brook, they only had one Final Four appearance and it was when Bucky was point guard. What he’s doing at Samford is exactly like what he did at Mountain Brook,” explained Tyler Davis, who spent all 12 seasons on McMillan’s staff.
SoCon wins are not the only milestones that Samford is approaching this season. With 19 wins to date and just two games to play this season, the Bulldogs are looking to register 20 regular-season wins for just the second time in school history and first since joining the SoCon.
They have also made quick work on four in-conference losing streaks ranging from 9 straight to 12 straight losses — all of which have been shattered by huge wins at home in the Pete Hanna Center.
Rebuilds typically don’t happen as quickly as the one on Lakeshore Drive seems to be going, but McMillan has always been able to have a long-term vision.
“He’s going to build it a day at a time. He understands the value of having the right people in that building,” said Schweers, the head coach at Huntsville.
McMillan values having the right people both on the court and in the stands. During the 2019-20 season, Samford basketball averaged 885 people per game in attendance. This year, average attendance has risen to 1,281, a 31% increase. Part of this rise can be attributed to McMillan’s engagement with the student body, but also his style of play.
After a rough start, Samford has won eight of their last nine conference games, showing that the future is bright at Samford. Schweers says this should not come as a surprise.
“This is just what he does. He’s relentless. He’s not going to stop,” he said.
The Samford rebuild is not the only one taking place.
The Cullman Bearcats went from 1-6 in region play in the 2020-2021 season, to 6-1 in region play and an Elite Eight appearance.
All around the state of Alabama there are teams playing with the same lightning speed and tenacious defense that the Samford Bulldogs have built through McMillan. One could make the case that this new wave of intensity around Alabama high school basketball almost certainly leads back to Bucky Ball at Mountain Brook.
Samford’s last home game will be on Wednesday, Feb. 23 in the Pete Hanna Center in Birmingham, Ala. The regular season will conclude on Saturday in a road contest against Chattanooga.