SCHENECTADY — Their goals are the same . . . so why go their separate ways?
“We’re both in the same spot,” said Miller, the boys’ varsity head coach. “We’re both building from the ground up.”
So Miller and Thomas — the girls’ varsity head coach, who starred for the Patriots before playing for the University of Texas and as a professional — started the Patriot Basketball Club, a joint venture meant to generate excitement for hoops at the youngest levels. Starting last week and going through the end of June, the club is meeting on Mondays and Wednesdays from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. to teach the basics to kids in grades three through eight.
“This is all about skills and drills,” Thomas said of the twice-a-week clinics.
For the club’s first three sessions, it met at Mont Pleasant Middle School. With approximately 150 kids signed up, though, the club will also start to use the city’s William C Keane Elementary School starting Wednesday. Sign-ups are ongoing for the club’s spring sessions, which cost $50.
“We want kids here,” said Miller, a Mohonasen graduate. “We don’t want to be turning anyone away.”
When Miller and Thomas took control of their programs last year, each said a top priority became repairing the city’s frayed youth basketball scene. Things hit a point where Schenectady did not field travel teams last winter.
“And for this many kids,” Miller said, “with this much interest, that’s unacceptable.”
The interest was certainly there Monday as boys and girls — the former wearing red club shirts, the latter wearing blue — went through drills together. A number of fellow Schenectady coaches, alumni and current players helped Miller and Thomas run the stations, a sight Thomas compared to ones he remembers from his own experience playing youth hoops in Schenectady.
“We had a lot of people in our community that cared,” Thomas said. They took time off from work to coach us, they fed us, they helped us when we were in need. That’s now my job. This is the next chapter in my life.”
Neither Miller’s boys’ varsity nor Thomas’ girls’ varsity competed in this year’s Section II postseason tournaments, an end to a season that is a rarity for the boys’ program and has become too common for the girls’ program. Starting up the Patriot Basketball Club, Miller and Thomas said, is meant to establish a solid footing for the high school’s programs.
“We’re here to build the future up,” Thomas said. “This is a great start.”