500 just another number to Watters

Clovis High head coach Miles Waters is honored for his 500th win after his team defeated Alamogordo at Rock Staubus Gym on Friday, December 30, 2006. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

Miles Watters doesn’t like to speak a lot about his successes as a basketball coach. That doesn’t matter much, because the numbers speak for him.

With 12 state championships — 11 at his hometown of Clayton, and one at Clovis via a 30-0
season in 2004-05 — Watters is one of New Mexico’s most accomplished girls’ basketball coaches with a record of 501-86. Including stints coaching college at Lubbock Christian University and boys at Sudan and Clayton, Watters’ career record is 619-210.

Watters sat down following Friday’s practice to answer a few questions about his time as a coach.

Q: What was your first experience with
athletics?
A:
It would have to be junior high athletics — football, basketball, track at Clayton. I always liked football and basketball. My freshmen year, I really developed a love for the game of basketball. I had a couple chances to play football and a couple chances to play basketball in college. It really wasn’t a choice because I love the game of basketball. I went to Lubbock Christian University and played there four years.

Q: What shifted you more toward
basketball?
A:
It’s constantly moving and changing. It’s that anticipation of what’s fixing to happen. I’d spend hours in the gym playing alone because I’d love to work on my shot. I could get out there and imagine somebody defending me. I’ve always had a link with basketball somehow or another.

Q: What pushed you to become a coach of the game?
A:
I’m not one of those guys who was thinking, “I want to be a coach.” I was one of those who went to college and had to decide on a major, and I said, “I think I’ll try coaching.” It worked out at a young age, and I kind of dialed into it.
I think that athletics teaches so much about life. That’s the part I enjoy about it. It teaches these kids to work hard, to make ultimate sacrifices. It teaches that everybody’s got different roles, and you’ve got to accept those roles.

Q: Has coaching ever been a choice you’ve regretted?
A:
After losing, I’m always sick — almost physically sick. I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t come back at it and say, “Hey, we’re going to work harder at it.” I’ve truly been a blessed coach. This is not a job. This is something we love to do. I like to work with these kids more than anything except being with my family. It’s a great situation that you get paid to coach.

Q: By that logic, you went through 2004-05 without being sick. It’s almost unfair to have Aimee Hilburn, Brittany Blackmon and Tori Quintana, and then merge them with role players who would easily start for most other 5A teams.
A:
Every year is a new adventure. We’ve been fortunate coaching those kids. That was clearly a talented bunch of kids with a great passion for the game.
I think you don’t realize it until two or three years down the line just how talented you were at that time and you say, “Wow, that was really a group that knew how to play.” We could play with anybody in the state and the (Texas) Panhandle area. It’s a fun experience. Coach (Regina) Downing took those kids to AAU summer after summer. She developed a lot of that passion in those kids.
It’s more passion than it is talent. You see a lot of talented failures. I like to have talented kids, but you love those kids that happen to have a passion. If they have the talent and the passion, you’re very fortunate.

Q: You tried college coaching at your alma mater. What changes when you coach college?
A:
It really boils down to more recruiting. It takes coaching, but it takes more recruiting. I felt at the high school level, coaches can have a bigger influence on the game. In college, you’ve got the shot clock, and every kid playing was the best kid on their (high school) team, so you’ve got the talent. If you can recruit those top athletes, you’re in a good situation in college.

Q: You coached boys for a few years as well. What’s the biggest difference?
A:
I’ve always said there wasn’t a difference, except that boys were more creative and girls had to work on being creative — going behind the back, between the legs. It’s now somewhat true, but there’s not as much difference now. I still feel like the girl’s game is a little bit more of a pure basketball game. Girls have to rely on execution, and guys rely on athletic ability.

Q: How have you changed?
A:
Kids have changed. I still coach them pretty hard, but I don’t coach them as hard as I used to. Parents are more involved, kids are still tough and hard-nosed. Society’s changed over 20, 30 years. I guess you see that whole change in society over what people hold as morals and values. As coaches, you have to be a little more tolerant than you were at one time.
I’m old-school, these kids are new-school, so to speak. I try to bend and give and see where they’re coming from. I try to have them see where I’m coming from, too.

Q: You don’t like to talk about it, but the banner in Rock Staubus Gym makes it hard to ignore. What does 500 mean to you?
A:
I didn’t think much about it until I opened the newspaper the day after and thought, “That’s a lot of games.” It’s a reminder that I’ve been so blessed to have been in this great game for so many years and I’m blessed to have so many great coaches. Those aren’t my wins, those are the (assistant) coaches wins. I just thank the good Lord to put me in a situation where I’ve truly been blessed.

Q: You also coached a few track champions at Clayton, but basketball gives you more satisfaction. Why is that?
A:
In track, you’ve got to hand it over to the kids and just hope they do what they do best. I think you’re so much more emotionally attached in basketball. Here, you’re changing defenses, you’re calling offenses. In track, I was fortunate to have talent. I’d just tell them to turn left at the corner and hopefully they’re the first one back. I wasn’t a great track coach by any means. We had some great coaches and parents who helped teach us hurdles.

Q: You credit your assistant coaches in most instances. Have you given any consideration to stepping aside for one of them to take over in the next few years?
A:
Anytime you’ve done something 30 years, you think of how long you’re going to be at it. This is a fun bunch to coach. As long as it’s fun to me and as long as I still get nervous before a basketball game, I think I’m going to stick with it. You give up Thanksgiving, Christmas, things like that where you wish you could spend time doing other things. As long as you get time for your family and hobbies and don’t burn yourself out. It may be a year, it may be 20 years. I don’t know what tells you to get out.

— The interview was edited for length and clarity.