Nina Mills, left, and Mary Hartline, right, are joining the basketball coaching staff at Cullman High School. (Photo courtesy of Amber Hembree)
CULLMAN – Cullman High School has added a couple of new faces to the Lady Bearcats Basketball coaching staff: former Fairview Lady Aggies Head Coach Mary Hartline is coming on as a varsity assistant and former Martin Methodist College player and assistant coach Nina Mills will join the staff as the junior varsity coach. As head coach at Fairview, Hartline led the Lady Aggies to an appearance in the Northwest Regional in three of the last four seasons and back-to-back Cullman County Tournament and 5A Area 12 Tournament wins the past two seasons.
Despite racking up so many wins at this point in her coaching career, Hartline is anxious to learn more about the job and continue improving her skills as a coach.
“After our season was over I had just been talking to a few people about this and that and the following year and somebody said that Coach (Josh) Hembree is looking for an assistant. So, I just texted him and it went from there and here we are,” Hartline smiled. “Whenever I first started I went straight from coaching middle school for three years to coaching the varsity position and I had several mentors like Coach (Michael) Oldacre, but I never really got to work under somebody and that bothered me.”
Hartline continued, “It turned out fine but I’m really looking forward to the coaching development that I’ll get from working with a coach like Coach Hembree who has had such success in Georgia and has really done a great job with a large program at Cullman. So, I think that just bettering myself as a coach is really what I’m looking forward to the most and just being part of a team. I like working with other people, so it’ll be a lot of pressure off to work with Coach Hembree and Nina and be able to work within a system and not have all the responsibility myself.”
Hartline was just added to the Cullman High staff this week, but she’s already gotten a chance to meet some of her new players and said she’s excited to get to work with them this season.
“I’ve met several of the girls at this point and I’m super excited. I think he’s got some older girls with good experience and then several talented players that are incoming ninth graders that I’m very impressed with and I think can develop into something,” Hartline said. “We are a little small size-wise, but at Fairview until Abbi Taylor we were always small, so that’s something that I’m accustomed to and that’s not a big deal, but yeah I’m really impressed with the girls.”
In the classroom, Hartline has similar motivations for making the move to Cullman High School: an opportunity to learn and gain professional experience with some of the best in her field.
“They have mentioned to me that I would probably get one section of AP Language, which is what I taught at Fairview, and at Cullman they have Jennifer Callahan who is a teacher that teaches other teachers how to teach AP,” Hartline joked. “She’s one of the top teachers in the state and she would get two sections and I would get one and we would work together directly. So again, just the professional development that I will get will lead to vast improvements in my teaching, getting to work with somebody like her. I’ve heard that I might get some ninth-grade classes as well which I’m excited about because I love the literature that goes with that, but mostly it’s about getting a chance to work with someone who has been in the system for such a long time and has had so much success.”
For Hartline, the opportunity is exciting and one she couldn’t pass up, but it was tough for her to say goodbye to the school and community that she had grown close to over the years.
“Dr. (Susan) Patterson actually hired me at Fairview Middle School eight years ago and that was my first teaching job. She let me coach too, and then I just moved on up after a couple of years and went to the high school, but you talk about long-term relationships. Eight years’ worth of relationships I’ve had with parents, community members and families, it’s been the same people for eight years and that support and family atmosphere, which I’m sure I’ll develop in Cullman as well, but just leaving the people and the relationships is tough,” Hartline said.
“I was really torn because this group of kids coming up at Fairview is such a good little group and a young group. They won the Junior Varsity County Tournament last year, they only lost two games and that’s why I had to pull kids to play varsity because of injuries at the beginning of the year, so they’re a very talented group. I think that they will do really well so I hate to leave the people, but as far as my career goes, getting to work with top people in the field at a large school I thought was a good step for me. It’s bitter-sweet, but I’m really excited.”
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