When a Career Becomes a Calling: Josh Mills Reflects on Coaching Basketball at TR High School After Announcing his Retirement

Story by Sam Kyker

For the people who know they are where they are supposed to be, the grass isn’t always greener, or court shinier. 

Living out a life he believed was his calling, Boys Basketball Head Coach Josh Mills poured into the lives of countless students, faculty, and members of the Travelers Rest High School community for 23 years. 

“Teaching and coaching have always felt like a calling,” Mills said. “I have never felt like Travelers Rest wasn’t the place for me. This is where I was supposed to be and I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.”

After two decades of coaching and building life-long relationships within his community at his alma mater, Mills has officially retired from his Head Coach position on the high school’s boys basketball team. During his coaching tenure at TR, Mills tallied 345 wins, 16 playoff appearances, nine Conference Championships, and one Upper-State Championship appearance over 22 seasons. 

Even before he began his coaching career at Travelers Rest High School, Josh Mills knew his life-long calling was to his hometown school and the community there, and nothing would get in the way of that. 

“In high school, I was a player and student at TR,” Mills said. “When I got out of college and had earned my teaching certificate, it was my dream to go back and pour into the community that had done the same for me.” 

Mills’ desire to coach at TR High predated his days as a student, however. As a kid, Mills dreamed of donning blue and gold, just like his father, Marvin Mills, before him. 

“My dad played for Coach Chico Bolin and Coach Joe Small [for whom TR’s football stadium and basketball gymnasium are named] at TR, so I grew up hearing stories from him on what it meant to be a Devildog,” Mills said. 

When Josh Mills took over the coaching position at Travelers Rest, the basketball program wasn’t the only thing that was rough around the edges. As a recent college graduate wanting to prove himself at his alma mater, Mills came in willing to learn to win, but without a lot of veteran experience. 

“The program wasn’t very good when I first got there,” Mills said through a slight chuckle. “I had to figure out what motivated each specific team and know what buttons to push, which was a learning curve, because you often coach kids the way you were coached when you first start.”

It wasn’t long however, before winning became an expectation, something that Mills hammered home to his players early on, and never really stopped. That mentality, coupled with not just exceptional players, but good kids, is something that Mills attributes to his success. 

“I’ve been very blessed with an awesome run of players since I’ve been here. I could name off some of the special kids that have played for me, but that would take too long,” Mills said through laughter. 

Mills coached two South Carolina Player of the Year award winners during his career, Andrew Brown and Caleb Mills, Mill’s first born son. During his TR career, Brown was All-Region and All-County three times, All-State twice, a member of the North and South Carolina All-Star team, and a part of the 1,000+ club at TR, while Mills was All-Region three times, All-County twice, All-State once, and was also a member of the North and South Carolina All-Star team and a part of the 1,000+ club at TR.

“Coaching my son was special,” Mills said. “That’s something that I’ll take with me forever. What a way to end my time as the basketball head coach.”

Mills hopes to continue spending time with his family in retirement. He may be further up than the sidelines near the bench at his son’s games, but that won’t stop him. 

“One of the things I’m looking forward to is that I’ll be able to watch my son, Caleb, play in college,” Mills said. “It’s just a different stage of life, and we’ll spend more time doing that and spend time together as a family.”

Although Mills has officially retired from coaching basketball at Travelers Rest, he will still be an integral part in the day-to-day life of the high school. 

“I’ll continue coaching volleyball, and will be taking over the Assistant Athletic Director position,” Mills said. “We have a lot of new coaches coming in, and one of the things that I’ll be very helpful with is helping these people understand the community and how to find their ways of navigating the uniqueness of TR.”

Part of Mills’ new role at Travelers Rest High School will not only be making the transition between him and the new boys basketball head coach as smooth as possible, but ensuring success for the program for years to come. 

“I’m committed to helping the new coach get acclimated with TR, whatever that will look like,” Mills said. “I met with him last week a couple of times for a few hours each. I think he’ll be great and do a fantastic job.”

Mills’ desire to continue stewarding the basketball program, as well as his intentions to remain in the school after his retirement, stays true to his commitment of establishing roots in his community and fostering relationships there. Even though he admitted it was time for him to step down from coaching basketball, Mills is unapologetic about missing aspects of the job. 

“The hardest part about not coaching is not necessarily about not competing or winning,” Mills said. “It’s really in the relationships you get to have with people, and especially the kids. You kind of lose that when you step away. Coaches often spend more time with their teams than they do with their families.”

More than anything else about his time as the head coach, above the wins, achievements, and success, Mills values the relationships he made with his players. 

“When you talk about post-high school accomplishments,” Mills said, as he fought back choking up, “it’s in the great fathers, employees, or husbands that my guys have turned out to be. Those are the kind of accomplishments that you can’t put a price on. That’s what it’s all about right there.”

Despite the many player and team awards, wins, conference championships, and state tournament appearances that Mills earned over his career at Travelers Rest High School, he maintained the importance of connection and relationships over everything else, a bond that went further than his role as the leader of the basketball team. 

“Maybe they got just a little something from playing for me and the teams I coached,” Mills said, as he reflected on his time with the basketball program. 


Share this Post:

Discover More About TR

Travelers Rest Here © 2024 A town as charming as its name.