Staff Photo: Ben Beitzel A.B. McMillian is a 1976 Dacula graduate and has been a teacher and coach at his former high school since 1984.
A.B. McMillian, 54, has done it all for Dacula. The 1976 graduate of the high school coached varsity basketball, golf, volleyball and softball and was a junior varsity football coach during his time at Dacula and managed to take 10 schools years off coaching a high school sport.
The youngest of seven and father of two plans to retire at the end of this school year and he took one final season to coach, assisting the varsity softball team this fall, a team that included his daughter. He talks with staff writer Ben Beitzel in this installment of "Getting to Know ..." about all his coaching duties, how one gets a name like A.B. and why he chose now to retire.
BB: You got here in 1984. I usually feel old, but that is the bulk of my life you spent working at Dacula.
AM: (laughs) It's been real good. It's been real good being here. There were seven of us McMillians that came through here, the first graduated in 1964, my eldest brother, and I was the last one in 1976.
BB: Seven? Seven siblings?
AM: Yes. Three brothers and three sisters.
BB: What's it like growing up in a house with seven kids?
AM: Awesome. You get beat on a lot, but it's still fun. We always had a ballgame playing. Always playing outside, playing ball. It was fun. You always stayed out of the house. You got in more trouble in the house than you did out of the house.
BB: Where'd you go to college?
AM: I went to Piedmont College, played basketball from '76 to 1980.
BB: And the plan was to get into coaching?
AM: Absolutely. I knew my junior year in high school what I wanted to do. My junior year of high school, I dreamed to coach and teach.
BB: At Dacula?
AM: Not at that time. I went to Loganville as an assistant coach for boys and girls basketball and as an assistant for football and then I came here as a head coach for boys basketball. It's a dream come true to teach and coach.
BB: Doing such a swath of sports, has that been fun getting to do different things?
AM: We were region champs in 8-A in basketball. Kevin Maloof came to me in 1991 and said, 'We need a golf coach, but we can't pay you.' I said, 'OK.' So I coached golf from 1991 to 2001. We were Region 8-AAAAA champs and we were Gwinnett County champs when it was really a Gwinnett County tournament. Then Kevin came to me in 1997 and said, 'Coach, I need a volleyball coach.' I said, 'I don't know anything about volleyball and he said, 'You can learn.' So I took over the volleyball team. My last year we were .500 and after that it just skyrockets. They've been good. At that time they were building a new gym and at the same time they were renovating the old gym, so we had no gym to practice in. We went to the middle school and we rolled out the big tires and the next and practiced with no lines. We didn't have any facilities and it was good. I finished up with a .500 record with that and then handed it over to someone who knew more about it.
BB: You probably learned a lot about it.
AM: I learned a lot about volleyball. It was fun. You get the fool beat out of you and all of a sudden you get to play the next game. It really is a fun sport to coach because if you play horrible in the first game it's over in no time and you get to start another game.
BB: Growing up here it must seem incredibly different now compared to your high school glory years.
AM: Very different. When I went to school here we had 350 kids in the whole school. We had 41 in my graduating class. That was pretty special because it takes no time to graduate. We were done in probably 25 minutes, I think now it's maybe two hours. I think the changes have been good. I have seen the positive growth of Dacula High School.
BB: You must appreciate the community feel around here with the school's roots going so deep compared to the other schools in this county.
AM: Of course we just celebrated in 2010 our 100th year of being a school and that says a lot of about this community. The community atmosphere is wonderful, it's wonderful. People see you on the street and they can identify you with either Dacula academically or Dacula sports. That's what's so neat. People in the community, they knew how to act. They knew the Dacula way. For the football teams or basketball teams in the 70s and 80s and even 90s and 2000s where everyone showed up for either the football game or the basketball game. The spirit was pulling for the school and the kids. Then when we travelled we took as many parents to the away games as the other team had in the stands. To me, even now, with some of the kids I went to school with and kids I have taught, there is one girl here on the basketball team, who's mother I taught. It's been 25 years. That is still that community atmosphere that we have here. I don't know if love is how you describe it, it's an appreciation, that's the word I want to use. It's an appreciation to be part of the community of Dacula High School. Plus, I was last of seven kids, so they all knew my brothers and sisters coming through.
BB: A.B. can't be your given name.
AM: Albert Barton is my given name. When I was a student here I was B, the letter B. Albert Barton is one of the guys my dad did business with. When you are one of seven all the other names are given out. James and David and William and John, those are all gone by the time you get there. Of course when I got into teaching it was 'Coach McMillian.'
BB: Is your wife a Dacula girl?
AM: No, we met on a blind date. Two students she had at Shiloh High School, I taught them at night school, which is open campus, it's Phoenix now. They set us up on a blind date. They were her former students and they had classes I taught at night school.
BB: Where did you take her on this blind date?
AM: We went to Applebee's. We went to American Pie and we went to see her favorite racecar driving movie, 'Days of Thunder.'
BB: Well remembered.
AM: How could you forget it?
BB: With just two kids (James and Katie Mac) your parents must have thought you were lazy.
AM: (laughs) Well, I wanted more, but my wife said, 'That's enough.' My son graduated from Dacula in 2011. He's a sophomore at Piedmont College, he's playing golf up there. Katherine, Katie Mac, we call her Katie Mac, she's a senior here. She plays softball and basketball.
BB: What was it like coaching her during your one last season coaching, and first doing high school softball?
AM: (They asked me) and I said, 'Let me think, yes.' It was a dream come true to coach not only her but the other girls. What a way to go out. It was really special to coach her, her last year in softball. To go out on top. I call it going out on top. Just a dream come true, to have that much fun in your last year of education is just unbelievable to me.
BB: So why choose this year to retire?
AM: Thirty-two is enough. When my mother passed away in 2008, Katie asked me, she said, 'Daddy, will you stay until I graduate?' And I said, 'Yes.' So I kept my promise. This is going to be it.
BB: What are you going to do?
AM: Just anything the good Lord leads me to. I could do a lot of things or I could do no things. We'll just see what happens next year. I don't know. I don't think I am going to get bored. I am going to do something. I have a pretty good while to think about it. I want to finish up strong teaching. When I go out the door I want people to say, 'He finished up strong like he was supposed to.'