By Angela Powers
Although Milt Travis has several goals in mind for the future of Rome High basketball, his focus, in many ways, is on the past.
For one, Travis — who was named the new boys basketball coach at Rome High on Thursday — is returning to Rome after 10 years. He left the Rome area in 2003, following his 17-season stint at Model High, where his son Jacob is now the head coach.
Secondly, the former Buford High and Stephens High head coach and North Gwinnett High assistant coach is looking to build on the strong reputation that Rome High basketball has established in the past.
And while Travis is inheriting a Wolves team that ended with an 8-18 overall record this past season, he knows the program has been, and can be, successful.
“(The tradition) has been good at Rome, and so we want to build on that tradition,” said Travis during a sit-down interview with the Rome News-Tribune on Friday.
“We’re not going to think about anything negative in the past.
“Programs are going to struggle at times, and they’re going to be down at times, and you have to just build out of that cycle by doing the right things,” he said. “That’s the positive part. This is traditionally good basketball.”
Travis compiled more than 200 wins during his tenure at Model and led the Devils to the state tournament seven times.
At Buford, Travis guided the Wolves to two Final Four appearances.
Now, he is taking over a team that last had a winning record in the 2008-2009 season, and hasn’t made a state tourney appearance since the 2007-2008 season in which they made it to the Elite Eight.
To get Rome back to being a state-tourney team, Travis said it’s all about the basics.
“I think for any team, whether it’s one that struggled or one that’s been doing well, you want to impress upon the kids that you have to be fundamentally sound,” he said.
“And you have to play hard, so that’s where we’re going to begin.”
Travis has proven in his different head-coaching tenures that he has the capacity to build a solid program, producing a string of deep runs in the state tournament and two region titles over the years.
To get Rome to these heights, Travis said his new team will aim to “play hard, play smart, play together, and really push ourselves to play aggressive.”
Travis will be coaching crosstown from his son and Model head coach Jacob, adding to the already competitive Rome-Model cross-region rivalry.
But competition aside, Travis thinks the setup will make for some fun, friendly competition
“It’s going to be a good world, because we’re not in the same region,” said Travis. “We’re not opponents fighting for the same title, but we are rivals enough that we’ll enjoy the competitive part.
“Coming back into head coaching in Rome was a good opportunity. It’s a great place to live, and Rome High has a great tradition that you can build something good in,” he said, “so I look forward to that.”