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East County Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020 6 months ago

Mustangs basketball led by family man

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Jeremy Schiller's values have been a winning formula for Lakewood Ranch.
by: Ryan Kohn Sports Reporter

Talk to Jeremy Schiller about his Lakewood Ranch High boys basketball team for more than a few minutes and the words “culture” and “family” are sure to be heard. 

The words have been the backbone of the Mustangs’ philosophy in Schiller’s nine seasons, and he has put them into practice, whether that means using out-of-state trips to get his players to bond or keeping everything light with inside jokes. He always looks for ways to bring his players closer together.

Lakewood Ranch boys basketball forward Andres Junge talks with coach Jeremy Schiller at practice.

Along the way, he has won, reaching the state semifinals twice and the state title game once, in 2018. Schiller said has passed up coaching opportunities at the college level to stick with Lakewood Ranch and would not consider leaving the school unless he felt his program was getting a lack of support from the administration — which, he added, has never been the case. 

The man who turned around the Mustangs was not always comfortable on a basketball court. At one point, while in seventh grade at a small middle school, Schiller felt he was in danger of getting cut from the school’s junior varsity basketball team. Schiller said he was a soccer kid who tried out for basketball as something else to do after school, and he made one shot all season. 

“I was absolutely terrible,” Schiller said. “It is hard to describe the level of bad that I was, but I fell in love with it.”

He loved the process more than the game itself. By nature, Schiller said, he is drawn to activities that allow for improvement the more you work on them. Schiller said he spent three to five hours a day practicing at the hoop in his front yard, working on his jump shots and his dribbling. Seeing his own progress made Schiller push even harder. Schiller said his parents, Marge and Gene Schiller, were not sports fans, but wholeheartedly supported his efforts to achieve his dreams.

Years later, Schiller would make the varsity team at Brandon High, where he was named a senior captain. Shoulder injuries and a lack of playing time brought his college career to an end after one season at Eckerd College, but that path closing led to another one opening. Wanting to stay in the game, Schiller reached out to his alma mater and landed an assistant coach's spot with Brandon’s junior varsity program. A year later, as a sophomore in college, he was the JV head coach, which he held until he graduated.

From there, Schiller took a graduate assistant spot at the University of South Florida. After that, he hopped between jobs at the college and high school level until landing at Lakewood Ranch in 2011-2012. From his first game on the sidelines, Schiller said, he knew coaching was the career he wanted to have. 

“I enjoy high school and the ability to be hands-on and lead a program at an early age,” Schiller said. “I like taking groups of people and achieving more than what we can achieve individually. It was the same when I was a player. I was student government president in high school. I just have always been in leadership positions because I enjoy that process.” 

That, Schiller said, comes from his parents. His father, Gene Schiller, was named the town manager of East Hampton, Conn., at 22 years old, and later served as the deputy executive director of the Southwest Florida Water Management District for 19 years.His mother, Marge Schiller, is a financial planner and was featured in Forbes Magazine in 2012. Schiller’s parents, he said, demonstrated the importance of having a drive and determining a path to success, whatever that success may be. 

“I think so much of teaching, just like in coaching, is who you are more than what you're saying,” Schiller said. “My parents are absolutely amazing. I mean, they were tough, but they definitely showed, day to day, how to work hard. It is about finding success through investing in other people and being a leader. It’s not about money, but being the best you can be.”

He shows that sentiment to his players. Schiller washes the team’s uniforms at his own home every day. He towels the floor of the Lakewood Ranch gym during practice if there is a sweat spot. He does the little things he could delegate to someone else, and in turn those things help create the culture of respect and hard work he wants his program to have, the culture he has known his entire life. 

Braden River High boys basketball coach Jason Mickan said Schiller’s teams are a nuisance on defense, where they play aggressive and physical to force mistakes. Their positioning is sound, Mickan said, because Schiller teaches them exactly where they need to be. It is tough to plan for, he said, but he holds a lot of respect for the job Schiller has done with the program. 

The relationships Schiller has formed through his coaching career have stuck. Often, he said, former players will call him to tell him they are getting married, or having a child. Other times, they will call asking for advice, or just to wish him happy holidays. It is those moments that Schiller said he cherishes the most, not the on-court wins. 

“I feel like we've created this fun atmosphere,” Schiller said. “Sometimes from the outside it looks like there's it is difficult or it is hard, but growth is like that. When you are on the inside, you realize this is a positive, fun environment. I'm most proud of the fact that we have truly created a family in this program and that the kids from [the] 2010s will come back and spend time with the 2020s. Through the good and the bad, we stick together.”

I’m the sports reporter for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. I was born and raised in Olney, MD. My biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. My strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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