Miranda Cravens can relate.
As a result, she seemed like a good fit at Portland High.
It was announced on Monday morning that Cravens has been named the head girls basketball coach for the Lady Panthers.
“Going into my career, I wanted to be a head coach,” Cravens said. “You have to start at the bottom and work your way up.
“I’m used to the small town and that type of thing. I feel like I can relate to the type of girls in the program. I was never the tallest, but I was the hardest-working player. I hear it’s a great community and a great group of girls to work with. I feel like I can come in there and start building a program. I know what it’s like to not be the quickest or most talented player. I can relate to them.”
That was a big factor in the hire.
“Playing for Clarkrange in a small school, it was a hometown feel,” Portland principal David Woods said. “She said, ‘I’m a 5-foot-3 point guard who played for a state championship team.’ She said, ‘I had to work for everything I got.’ That’s going to be very important, especially at Portland. Some of the schools who have the 6-3s (players who are 6-foot-3 inches tall) aren’t going to work as hard. For us to be competitive, we have to put in that kind of work. That was a huge component.”
Portland is one of the smallest schools in Class AAA, leaving less of a population of students in comparison to the remainder of the schools in District 9-AAA (some of which have double the number of students).
Cravens was the starting point guard at Clarkrange High School for four seasons, helping the Lady Buffaloes to the 2004 state championship and a state semifinal appearance in 2005. She concluded her playing career there with more than 1,000 points and a school record of 826 assists, and Cravens’ jersey was retired.
Cravens played for Lamar Rogers at Clarkrange, who has won 1,073 games and eight state championships during his 38-year tenure there.
“He’s the best coach I’ve ever played for,” Cravens – who played collegiately at Gadsden State (Ala.) Community College and Martin Methodist College – said. “A lot of my discipline comes from playing from Lamar Rogers. I will carry some of that over. My base comes from him and playing at Clarkrange.”
Cravens is familiar with 9-AAA, having been an assistant coach under Amy Wilhite at Hendersonville High for the last two seasons. The Lady Commandos had their greatest amount of success in the last decade last season, producing a 22-8 record, placing second in 9-AAA during the regular season, finishing third in the district tournament and reaching the regional semifinals before falling to perennial power Mt. Juliet.
“I already know from two years of watching other teams play,” Cravens – who also coached at Volunteer State Community College under former head coach Chris Harris during the 2011-12 season – said. “I know Hendersonville very well. That’s definitely an advantage. I know other coaches. I know how they like to play. I know what other teams have. I feel like that’s a great advantage I’m going to have.”
The 27-year-old Cravens succeeds Drew Smith, who resigned in late May.
Smith helped the program improve on its 2012-13 win total of three games, winning six contests last season.
“District 9-AAA is one of the toughest districts in the state other than the Murfreesboro schools,” Cravens said. “Any team in this district has a challenge day in and day out with Mt. Juliet and all of those schools.
“I’m coming in and focusing on the smaller goals, really changing the mentality. It’s picking out a stat every game, such as rebounding … something that just takes effort. We’ll try to focus on the winning not on the scoreboard but on the small goals that it takes to be successful in basketball. If we’re focusing on the small goals, we’ll get to where we’re winning the bigger battles.”
The Lady Panthers haven’t won a district game since the 2011-12 season. Portland graduated seven seniors from that squad, which was followed by head coach Randy Brown’s resignation and Drew Smith’s hiring.
“She knows what she’s up against,” Woods said. “She wanted the challenge. It goes back to that hard working thing. I can tell she has some drive and some perseverance.
“I am excited to have her here at Portland High School.”
There were approximately 25 applicants for the job, and the administration contacted approximately half of those individuals in some fashion.
Cravens was introduced to the team on Monday morning.
“That hard-working thing goes to more than just on the basketball court,” Woods said. “She was salutatorian. She talked to the kids about that (off-the-court matters). I really like all that about her.
“She’s obviously real young, but I was real impressed by her. She already has a schedule out for the rest of the summer. It’s going to be good.”
Cravens will be the third head coach in four seasons for the Lady Panther program.
“I actually had four different head coaches in college,” Cravens said. “It’s kind of rare for someone to have that.
“Stability is one of the major requirements in having a good program. You look at any successful program – whether football or basketball – and it’s been a coach who has been there several years and developed it. My goal is to build a winning program. I’m going to be sticking around a while.”
The Lady Panthers lost three seniors from its 2013-14 squad – starting shooting guard Chandler DeGeorge, starting forward Kierra Archibald and reserve forward Anna Blair Bandy.
Portland returns three starters – senior point guard Mac Stewart, junior guard Erica Keen and junior forward Alyssa Chatmon – along with the team’s top reserve, junior shooting guard Cristina Herrera.
The Lady Panther freshman class also brings some much-needed size with forwards Emily Brown and Taylor Cole.
Assistant coaches Vanessa Tomlinson and Whitney Goostree ran the team at its summer basketball camps in June.
“I’ve seen a few of the incoming freshmen,” Cravens said. “I’ve been told by the assistant coaches that we have a talented and taller group coming in. This is a great time to come in at Portland. I feel like the puzzle pieces are coming together. It’s great timing.”
Cravens indicated that the style the team plays won’t be determined until she has time to evaluate her personnel.
“The style of play I’m going to play is going to depend on what I have,” Cravens said. “They’re typically not the tallest group of girls. I haven’t gotten to see them play yet. I’m going to go in and see what I have to work with. My style of play will be bringing out their strengths. I’ll choose the style of play that best fits our program.”
Cravens – who will be a health and wellness teacher at Portland, as she was at Hendersonville – admitted that it will be a different feeling when her new squad faces her former team.
“It will be a little odd,” Cravens said of playing against Hendersonville. “I’m also kind of looking forward to it in getting to see them again, but I’m here for Portland. My loyalty is with them. I’m going to try to beat them.
“I’m very thankful and grateful to have been given this opportunity at Portland. We start practice tomorrow (on Tuesday). We start 6:30 a.m. workouts throughout July. I’m eager and excited to get in there and get the work started.”
Sports reporter Craig Harris can be contacted at 575-7138.