The name Liz Mills has been on the mouths and minds in Kenya, Africa and elsewhere across the world, and for good reason.
This is after the Australian coach led the The Morans, Kenya men’s basketball team, to a historic win by beating African titans Angola 74-73 in a closely-fought clash in Yaoundé, Cameroon a week ago.
The definite win saw The Morans qualify for the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) AfroBasket 2021 tournament set for Kigali, Rwanda, thanks to Mills, the coach from Australia.
The victory also saw the team qualify for the Rwanda tournament for the first time in 28 years, as Mills went down in history as the first woman to steer a men’s team to the championships.
Liz Mills and The Morans. PHOTO/COURTESY
Our Swala Nyeti editor Lawrence Nganga had an exclusive Q&A with coach Liz Mills on the historic win and what it means for her and The Morans going forward:
Q: What was going through your mind immediately before and after that last basket was made by Tylor Ongwae?
I was just ecstatic for the team. They've worked really hard to be in this position and I'm glad they were able to qualify after 28 years away from the tournament.
Q: What does the Yaounde historic win with the Morans mean for you?
Great achievement for everyone involved in the team. We are all excited to be representing Kenya at AfroBasket later this year.
Q: What next for coach Mills?
Q: How has the experience been as the first female head coach of Kenya's basketball team?
I feel very proud to be the first woman to achieve this but also on the other hand it is sad that it is 2021 and we are still having to achieve these milestones.
I hope we see a drastic increase in the number of female head coaches for men and women's teams over the next couple of years so that we get to the point where it is normal to have a female head coach and we're not talking about gender with regard to coaching.
Q: Has coaching the Morans been everything you thought it would be when you took over?
Yes. This is an exciting and talented group of players who have worked hard to build this team over the last couple of years. I was very excited about the opportunity to work with them and they have exceeded all expectations I had.
Q: How did the Morans take you at first when you started coaching the team?
They embraced me from the very first training session. They were aware of my reputation prior to the first practice session and I had reached out to some of the players beforehand. They understood the value I would bring to the team and since the first practice we have worked well together.
Q: Is the federation doing enough to get more women onto the coaching scene? What more can be done?
At this stage I wouldn't know as I've only been here for 3 weeks and solely focused on the Morans.
Q: What’s your take on Kenyan women’s basketball scene?
Since the domestic league is not running I haven't been able to watch any league games so I can't make a comment regarding this.
Q: What attracted you to basketball and what has your personal experience with the game been like?
It's a high skilled sport which allows each player to thrive on the offensive and defensive end.
Winning takes a team and the team work required is the joy of the sport. I started playing the sport at 15 and coaching at 16.
Q: Who do you look up to, as far as coaching is concerned?
Gregg Popovich (American professional basketball coach and executive. He is the head coach and president of NBA’s San Antonio Spurs and head coach of the USA national team. )
Q: What is your daily inspiration? What keeps you going and reaching for the skies?
Personal growth and development. The need to get better every day.
Q: What has your Kenyan experience been like? Foods? Places? People?
I've had a great experience with the national team whilst in Kenya. Unfortunately I have only had time to work but hopefully when I'm back later this year I'll have some time to experience Kenyan food and tourist spots.
Q: Away from basketball, how do you unwind?
I don't discuss my life away from basketball.