March 12, 2021 

Where does George Mason go from here?

Nyla Milleson resigns — the program seeks a new head coach

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Nyla Milleson looks at the ground during Mason’s Feb. 19, 2020 matchup against Richmond. Photo Credit: Domenic Allegra.

On March 11 George Mason Assistant Vice President/Director of Athletics Brad Edwards announced that head women’s basketball coach Nyla Milleson had resigned. 

In her eight seasons with Mason, Milleson compiled an overall record of 98-140 and a 40-86 mark in the Atlantic 10 Conference. 

“I want to express my sincere appreciation to Nyla for her commitment and leadership to our women’s basketball program over the past eight years. Nyla cares deeply for her student-athletes and has worked tirelessly to make it an outstanding overall experience at George Mason. Her program has had a strong commitment in achieving academic success and engaging with our community,” Edwards said. 

Milleson led the team through its transition to the A-10. In the team’s final year in the Colonial Athletic Association, it went 4-14 in conference play. While the Patriots won just one A-10 game in Milleson’s first year, the team improved each year, eventually getting to 11 conference wins by the 2017-2018 season. 

The 2017-2018 season was a historic one for Milleson and the program for multiple reasons. The team set the school record for wins with a 24-10 record, finished fourth in the A-10 for the team’s best conference finish in 14 years, made the postseason for the first time since 2004 and earned the program’s first postseason win after defeating Stephen F. Austin in the first round of the WNIT.

In Milleson’s final season at Mason, the team went 3-19, including 0-14 in conference play. 

Reflecting on the team’s season after its 62-56 loss to George Washington on March 10, Milleson said, “First and foremost, we didn’t get COVID. So let’s cheer for that.” 

She added, “This was a team that, both on and off the floor, needed the development that we just couldn’t get to the full potential. I will say I don’t think we ever quit. I know some scores were a little more out of hand than we would have liked them to be, but I don’t think we ever quit. I don’t think we ever stepped on the floor the next day and didn’t want to get better. But you put the COVID on top of the youth. On top of the losing. It was a tough year.” 

Milleson not only had an impact on her players but also on other coaches, including with her “neighbor,” GW head coach Jen Rizzotti. 

After the Colonials defeated the Patriots Wednesday, Rizzotti said, “We’re neighbors, we play each other a lot. I don’t know, I feel like the league really welcomed me a couple of years ago as a coach. It just felt different from when I started coaching at Hartford. The community of coaches in the A-10 is great. [Nyla] has always been a competitor, but also understands the bigger picture.”

Milleson is stepping away from coaching and will be joining the Hollister R-V School District as its next Athletic Director beginning on July 1. 

As Mason looks to move forward, Edwards will conduct a national search for a head coach. 

The team has struggled in the post since Natalie Butler’s historic 2017-2018 season, and the next coach will need to work to bring in post players who can crash the glass and compete against players like Brooke Flowers and Emmanuelle Tahane. 

In a head coach, Mason should look for someone with postseason experience who could bring Mason back to the top third of the conference and sustain success at that level. The next head coach should also be able to recruit in the highly competitive Washington, DC, area and bring in high-level post and defensive players.

Additionally, the next head coach should be able to implement a high-scoring transition offense. This past season, Mason was last in the conference in scoring, averaging just 50.7 points per game, and was second-to-last in the country in field goal percentage (30.78%).

Written by Natalie Heavren

Natalie Heavren has been covering women’s basketball since February 2019 and currently covers both the Atlantic 10 and the WNBA.

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