From one former point guard to another, from a Wildcat to a Sun Devil, Phoenix Shadow Mountain is transitioning its boys basketball program with former Arizona State standout player Curtis Millage as head coach, Shadow Mountain Principal Dave Appleman told The Arizona Republic in an email on Monday morning.
“Curtis Millage has been hired as of this morning,” Appleman wrote.
Millage, who played point guard at ASU from 2001-03 before spending most of the next 14 years playing professionally overseas, will take over for former 14-year NBA veteran point guard Mike Bibby, who helped lead Arizona to its only NCAA basketball championship in 1997 during his freshman year.
Bibby led Shadow Mountain to five state championships in six years, including the last four. He was fired in February after being accused of sexual abuse against a co-worker at the school.
Millage will have the task of trying to keep the dynasty intact.
“I know I’m going into a dynasty,” Millage said. “I’m prepared for that. We’re ready.
“I know we’re going to have a great tradition to continue our own dynasty when we get there. Once we see what we have, we’ll be there.”
With the graduation of All-Arizona guards Jaelen House (now at Arizona State) and Jovan Blacksher (Grand Canyon) and with sophomore guard Devontes Cobbs playing for AZ Compass Prep’s national team this summer, the Matadors aren’t expected to have the same firepower, making Tucson Salpointe the 4A favorite coming into the 2019-20 season.
Shadow Mountain went 26-3 last season. Davon Cobbs, a senior guard who is Devontes’ brother, is expected to remain at Shadow Mountain. Senior swingman Shemar Morrow also is expected to stay at Shadow Mountain, where he was a key player on the last two state title teams. Morrow averaged 12 points and eight rebounds last season.
Salpointe lost to Shadow Mountain in the 2017 and 2018 state championship games and fell to the Matadors in last year’s state semifinals, which was Shadow Mountain’s most difficult game in the playoffs.
“Devontes Cobbs is a big piece,” Millage said. “The next guy has to be ready. Whoever is returning, we’re going to be all right. We’re going to be stronger than ever. Guys will be excited. I don’t think we’ll skip a beat with Bibby not coaching.”
Millage said that he has a good relationship with Bibby, who gave him his blessing.
“He told me a lot about it, what was his game plan, what I’m getting into,” Millage said. “I’ve spoken to his assistants. I’ve gotten a good vibe.
“It’s intensity, it’s hard work, it’s defense, 94 feet of being in somebody’s face.”
Millage brings in strong credentials as a former player.
He started all 58 games he played in for the Sun Devils in two seasons — 2001-02, ’02-03 — averaging 14.7 points. He averaged 17.4 points in Pac-10 play in the 2002-03 season. He is remembered for his 17 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists against Memphis in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
He played his first two colleges seasons at Los Angeles Southwest College.
From 2003-17, Millage played professionally, mostly overseas, playing in China, Croatia, Ukraine and Latvia. He was a two-time Latvian League champ and won a title in the Estonian League.
He said he officially retired on Mother Day of this year as a player. He was an assistant coach at Chandler-Gilbert Community College.
“It shaped me a lot learning both sides, how to play the American game and the European game. To play 14 years, that’s more than a blessing. A lot of people don’t understand Ameircans don’t play that long in Europe with a passport. I’m more than happy.
“I’m excited about this new journey, ready to teach these young men what it takes, not only what Mike did, but to start my own ship. I’m not going to let this ship sink.”