When Greenbrier girls basketball coach Carl Miller took the White House Heritage boys job in early August, the Lady Bobcats found themselves in need of a new leader.
They didn’t have to look far for Miller’s replacement.
Brianna Gillen, who spent the last two seasons as an assistant under Miller, was promoted to head coach Tuesday afternoon. She began her basketball coaching career with the Greenbrier Middle School boys and girls teams in 2015.
“I’m more than excited,” Gillen said. “This was always the goal for me. Coach Miller asking me to be his assistant was a stepping stone, but I don’t think any of us expected it this soon.”
Gillen said the weeks following Miller’s departure have been tense. She immediately expressed interest in the job but had to go through a formal application and interview process while Greenbrier was conducting its search.
Greenbrier administrators informed Gillen of her promotion Tuesday in her office. The team was then called to the locker room for a meeting, where joyful tears were shed.
“We had a few tears, surprisingly,” Gillen said. “The past month or so everyone has been waiting and hoping that I was going to get it. The girls were excited. Everybody was excited. That’s going to a moment I’ll probably never forget.”
Gillen, formerly Brianna Newton, was a three-sport athlete at Westmoreland, where she played basketball, softball and volleyball. Initially, the idea of being a teacher and a coach wasn’t appealing to her, but halfway through her time as a student at Tennessee Tech, she had a change of heart.
“I was kind of burnt out with playing travel (sports) and everything,” Gillen said. “I was exhausted. But then I realized how much (basketball) has done for me as a person. I decided I wanted (to help) girls have the strength that you get from such a long schedule and a difficult sport.”
Gillen graduated from TTU in 2015 and took a teaching job at Greenbrier Middle School, where she served as head coach of the boys team and as an assistant for the girls team. She was then the girls head coach for a season before joining Miller’s staff at Greenbrier High in 2017.
Ironically, current Greenbrier seniors Kayla Conquest, Zoe Merrill, Snowden Scott and Alexandria Wilson were four of the first people Gillen met on her first day at Greenbrier Middle. That quartet now serve as the leaders for the high school team.
“It all comes full circle,” Gillen said. “I coached most of these girls in middle school. They’re the best leaders I could have asked for to make this transition.”
Gillen also credited Miller for guiding her through what it takes to be a high school coach. She said many of her coaching philosophies will have Miller’s “touch.”
“I’ve learned so much about the game from him,” Gillen said. “He taught me how to mold these girls into good people. And to me, that’s more important than anything else.”
Greenbrier has not had a winning season since 2015-16. The Lady Bobcats went 15-16 last year and lost to East Nashville 60-24 in the Region 5-AA quarterfinals.
Gillen said she wants to change that and finish in the top two in District 9-AA, which would clinch a home game for the first round of the region tournament.
Though Miller is gone, Gillen said she believes having a familiar face lead the program will make for a smoother transition. Greenbrier opens its season at Central Magnet Nov. 19 at 6 p.m.
“When Carl left, it was bittersweet for me,” she said. “And for those girls, I think it was too. They lost a father figure. But they’re gaining somewhat of an older, wiser sister – I’m not old enough to be their mother.”