Phinney settling in nicely as Millis’ Athletic Director
Derek Phinney has replaced Chuck Grant as Millis High’s Athletic Director.
By KEN HAMWEY
Staff Sports Writer
Derek Phinney was an ideal choice to succeed Chuck Grant as Millis High’s athletic director because he checks a lot of boxes.
The 47-year-old Phinney has a degree from UMass-Amherst in sports management, worked extensively after graduation in a variety of hockey venues, and has taught health and wellness at Millis for the last 12 years. But, most importantly, Phinney, whose goal was to become an athletic director, was tutored by Grant for three years. Grant left Millis after 20 years and now is the A.D. at Tiverton High School in Rhode Island.
“Chuck was a phenomenal mentor,’’ Phinney emphasized. “And, even though Millis has a small enrollment, Chuck was successful because he stressed to student-athletes and coaches that ‘we’ll never be outworked.’ I taught classes but helped out in the office on a volunteer basis.’’
During the Covid years, Phinney was like an assistant A.D., focusing on communication with parents and helping with registrations and logistics at events. “I learned on the job and got some valuable training,’’ he said.
Phinney, who is married, has twin boys and lives in Medway, is eager to help the Mohawks’ athletic program move forward on the successful path that Grant left.
“My goals are to improve the number of students participating in sports, to maintain high character and accountability for coaches and student-athletes, to remain competitive, add a new sport or two, and to create an atmosphere where we’re able to grow and conduct ourselves like a Division 1 program.’’
Taking on A.D. duties may sound glamorous but it’s a position that requires long hours, devotion to the task and tackling chores that at times may not be pleasant.
“There are new functions to handle that only Chuck dealt with in the past,’’ said Phinney. “Hiring and dismissing coaches, working with coaches on scheduling, and evaluating their work areas, that’s new territory,’’ he offered. “More communication with coaches, athletes and parents will occur. I’ll work with students, coaches and parents to make Millis a better place.’’
A native or Scarborough, Maine, Phinney’s interscholastic days at Cheverus High School in Portland included varsity soccer, basketball and baseball. He was a captain and an all-star in basketball.
Before arriving at Millis, Phinney was immersed in ice hockey. He was an intern for the Portland (Maine) Pirates hockey team in the American Hockey League. He later worked for the AHL and also interned for a year with the Boston Bruins. He gained more front-office training when he worked for a financial planning firm that dealt with agents and contracts. He also directed training centers and scouted for Neutral Zone, a regional scouting service.
Phinney has all the attributes that are crucial for a lengthy tenure in athletic management. “Some of the keys are patience, to be able to organize and prioritize, and to adapt quickly and be flexible,’’ he noted. “It’s also imperative to be competitive, to stay connected with athletes, coaches and the community, and to build relationships. The A.D.’s office will have an open-door policy and we’ll discuss whatever is on anyone’s mind.’’
During Grant’s two decades at Millis, the school won 14 state championships, 19 sectional titles and 8 Tri Valley League crowns. Phinney wants to maintain that success in spite of the Mohawk continual underdog status.
“Millis might be a small school but it’s a big family,’’ Phinney emphasized. “My motto is similar to what Chuck stressed. I emphasize that we’ll never give in. We all have to buy in and it’s a team effort that produces success.’’
Phinney is continuing to teach two classes daily during the mornings, then he turns his attention to athletics. He says both are getting his full attention. “It’s a balancing act but both areas will get 100 percent effort from me.’’
Just after Phinney was hired, he attended a Tri Valley League Athletic Directors meeting. “I already knew some of the A.D.s,’’ he said. “They’re a fantastic group and they’re very supportive. They’re all good mentors and I’m pleased to be part of the group.’’
Phinney relies on an athletic philosophy that emphasizes reaching one’s potential and having fun competing. “If those things are occurring, then winning will follow,’’ he said. “There’s also lots of life lessons that sports teach. Students can learn how to overcome adversity, how to lead and be a good teammate, how to organize and how to be objective.
“I want our coaches to be role models, good motivators, build tradition and stress accountability. And, I want our athletes to persevere, be resilient and be ambassadors for the school and for the Tri Valley League.’’
Two months have transpired since Phinney took the A.D. reins and the transition has gone smoothly. “I’ve been around athletics awhile, the kids and coaches know me and many students have been in my classes,’’ he said. “My emotions as fall sports got underway at Millis were relief and excitement. I was relieved all the pre-season work was completed and excited to see our kids compete. It’s a great atmosphere and I hope Millis will continue to enjoy success.’’