Fifteen years ago, Craig Milledge was a scrappy, savvy point guard and Scot New an inspirational assistant coach for a Mountain Valley boys’ basketball team that nearly pulled off an unlikely state championship.

Milledge, the new girls’ varsity coach at Mountain Valley, and New, who has taken over the boys’ varsity program, hope to make the Falcons state title contenders in both sports.

New replaces Tom Danylik, who stepped down after six years as boys’ coach to become the school’s new athletic director. Milledge, an assistant and junior varsity coach for the last five years, replaces Ryan Casey, who resigned after five years at the helm of the girls’ team.

Casey was the coach of the 2003 Mountain Valley boys’ team that won what was then Class B West as a No. 4 seed and ultimately lost to Winslow in the state championship game. 

Both Milledge, who played for Casey going back through youth and middle school basketball, and New, who served as Casey’s assistant and JV coach for much of New’s 10-year tenure (1995-2005), noted the influence of their former mentor and their shared defense-first mindset. Both also had high praise for their counterpart. 

“He’s absolutely the right choice,” Milledge said of New. “He did so much more than x’s and o’s when he coached me. He also knows what it’s like to be a player in pressure situations. It’s beyond just understanding the game. He teaches the nuances of being in the heat of the moment and knowing how to react.”

“Craig’s been great for the girls’ program and he’ll be a great head coach,” New said. “As a player, he had a coach’s mentality and had the thick skin to take whatever criticism Ryan or I had. And after he graduated from Mountain Valley, he came right back to help us out. I always knew it was just a matter of time before he got his own program.”

Milledge, 34, and New, 47, were hired in June, just before the start of summer basketball. Both inherit teams that finished 11-8 and had their 2017-18 seasons end in the Class B South quarterfinals at the Portland Expo.

Milledge takes over a girls program that has never played for a gold ball and graduated four seniors, including two starters, from last year’s team. He  is happy with how the team has filled the leadership void and tackled a tough summer schedule that included the Maine Gold Rush camp at Colby College.

“I’ve been incredibly impressed with out leadership so far this summer,” he said. “There’s a coachability with this group, girls that want to work, girls that want to be held accountable.”

“(Casey) taught me there is so much more to running a varsity program, certainly a successful varsity program, than what happens on the game or practice court. The biggest thing is getting players to buy in,” Milledge said. “I like how hard we’re playing. We’ve played some high-level competition, which is what we really need going into an MVC that is going to be stacked this year.”

New’s boys’ team has faced a stacked summer schedule as well, most recently as a last-minute entry that beat Class A Lawrence in the championship game of an Augusta tournament.

The Falcons, who are 3-2 in state championship games but haven’t played for a gold ball since 2007, graduated just two seniors and one starter from last year’s team. With a large nucleus of last year’s juniors back, and with the expectation that hard-nosed defense will be a constant, New hopes the experience translates into consistency at the offensive end.

“The offense is getting better,” he said. “These kids are very athletic, so the open court suits them better than the halfcourt set. I want to push the ball up the court, but sometimes that’s easier said than done.”

New also hopes to instill high expectations into his players, which he fulfilled not only as an assistant coach but as a senior starter on the school’s first state championship team, in the school’s inaugural 1989-90 season.

“We know with Spruce Mountain and Winthrop and Hall-Dale the MVC is going to be tough, and we know Class B is going to be tough,”  said New, who spent the past five years coaching his sons, Zach and Jake, in AAU basketball. “Hopefully the experience that I’ve had can help make these guys understand what they are capable of here.”

Mountain Valley girls’ basketball coach Craig Milledge. (Submitted photo)

Mountain Valley boys’ basketball coach Scot New.