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Central alumni game honors Coach Mills

Denny Mills will be honored during a Central alumni basketball game on Nov. 30.

Former Central Basketball Coach Adam Barton and Jill Sechrest Wagner came up with the idea of an alumni basketball game a few years ago when Wagner’s oldest son was in high school.

Barton resigned as coach when he and his wife learned they were expecting twins.

Allen Davis, who took over for Barton as boys head basketball coach, and his staff recently decided to revive the alumni game and also honor a special Central employee.

The next edition of the Central High School Basketball Alumni Game is set for Nov. 30 at 4 p.m. at the Central Field House in Park Hills.

“Details are still being lined out,” said Wagner, “but we have past district- and state-winning basketball teams being recognized.”

A men’s alumni game plus a ladies’ game – if there is enough interest – will take place. Other activities include a three-point contest, drawing for half-court shot and more. Pizza and soda will also be sold.

Any former Central players who would like to participate in the alumni games should contact Wagner as soon as possible at 314-808-3049 or send her a message on Facebook or through the Facebook event page CHS 2019 Alumni Game and Honoring of Coach Denny Mills.

The Central employee who will be honored at the alumni games is Coach Denny Mills.

“We want to honor Coach Mills for all he has contributed to our school and so many individuals over the years,” said Davis. “We wanted a special time to recognize Coach Mills and bring back old players at the same time.”

Wagner’s family has always been friends with the Mills family. She went to school with Denny’s youngest son, Zack. He is a big reason why Wagner is organizing this upcoming event.

Denny Mills and wife Carol have two sons, Chad and Zack.

Both of their sons have followed in Denny’s footsteps to coach area basketball teams currently or in the past. Chad is now athletic director at North County. Zack is a coach and teacher at Central.

Denny has coached at Central for more than 40 years, from the mid-1970s to recently. He has taught for almost 30 years. Although he retired, Denny returned to Central as a part-time Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) teacher. He continued coaching for an additional 11 seasons with the football program.

“Dad has spent his entire career at Central,” said Zack.

Denny was a high school assistant baseball coach when Mike Bouchard was the head coach. He also assisted at all sub-varsity levels of football. He coached basketball at the seventh grade, eighth grade and varsity levels. His basketball win total was more than 300 wins.

Denny also coached Zack in basketball as an eighth grader. They won the conference tournament that year.

About 15 years ago Denny was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. After about three or four months, Denny went into remission but then experienced a recurrence about two years ago. Again, he went into remission relatively quickly.

The cancer has returned. Denny is now battling Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma as well as Multiple myeloma.

“The cancer is back again and he is currently fighting through chemo and the prayers of countless individuals,” said Zack. “But my dad is a fighter. Period. He makes the most of every day, just as he always has.”

The Mills family is grateful for the upcoming opportunity to honor their father and participate in the alumni game.

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“I will say that Coach Davis is taking steps to promote the program by engaging alumni, which I think is an excellent idea,” said Zack. “I am deeply honored that he chose my dad as a special guest.”

Zack said with his dad’s 40 years of coaching and 30-plus years in the classroom, he has had a profound impact on the lives of many people.

“It’s anybody’s guess how many people may want to acknowledge his influence,” he said. “I know that he is very honored and very appreciative of the whole thing. The whole family feels that way.”

Chad said his dad exemplifies the ultimate Central Rebel.

“He spent 40 years on the sideline for various Central athletic teams. It is going to be very special seeing Dad recognized for an incredible career of serving others. Dad touched the lives of thousands of kids over the last 40 years, and the recognition he will receive on the 30th will be much deserved.”

Zack said his mother has been “an incredible person who has supported Dad all along.”

Denny coached three sports while the boys were growing up, and their mom always had her hands full with the boys while her husband was coaching in the evenings. But since Denny has been sick, Carol has been at his side and tended to everything he has needed.

“Their marriage has been a great example to my brother and me, just as my dad has been a great influence to so many others through teaching and coaching,” said Zack. “I am very thankful for the number of people who have shown support for my dad and really our whole family as they have responded with well wishes and prayers.”

He said a lot of “good, good people have come through the Central School District over the years, and so many have taken this opportunity to show their support for our basketball program and my dad through this event. I can’t thank them enough.”

Chad said his dad is his hero. “I’ll never be able to fill his shoes, but I’ll always be grateful to have had a father who has impacted the lives of so many.”

When Denny is honored on Nov. 30, some players will stand on the floor with him and stories will be shared.

A few heartfelt stories have already been shared on Facebook on the event page.

Garry Heith Dunn said Coach Mills has been “an influential man in my life as a young student athlete. At the time I didn’t realize it, but the lessons learned on the football field from Denny helped to mold me into the man I am today. [He’s] one of the best men I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing.”

Mike Helvey said he remembered many talks between Denny and him and his “words from football practice, most of which are always on replay in my mind and applied to my life today.”

Billy Ray Johnson grew up with Denny and played ball with him. [He’s] “one of the greatest individuals I have ever known. I would very much like to participate in the alumni game and attend the event to honor Denny.”

Giovani Azoni described Denny as an “exceptional father, husband and educator.”

Mike McBride said Denny is a great guy. “If you add up his numbers as a student, player, teacher and coach, he has probably had more student and community contact than anyone in Central School District’s history. His influences on the school district have been positive and profound. Well done, Coach!”

“I know Coach Mills has impacted so many of our lives in this community and in my opinion we should honor a person and share what they mean to us when they are able to hear it,” said Wagner. “This idea was thought of by CHS Coach Davis and his coaching staff.”

She said they all want to thank Coach Mills “for what he has done in our lives.”

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