Like father, like son.
Basketball is a family affair for the Huffs.
Miles Huff is entering his seventh season as Payson’s varsity girls basketball head coach.
His father, Rory, is taking over the boys program.
If there is a season, that is.
COVID-19 makes that uncertain. As of press time, it was unclear if there will be a season. Games will likely be delayed until January at the very least. But both teams are practicing as they wait for updates.
Rory, a Realtor, has been in the stands watching Miles coach the Payson girls varsity the past six years seasons and JV the three years before that. And he always sticks around to watch the boys games that follow.
“I watch every Payson game,” he said. “That’s my winter entertainment. I know all these kids.”
He’s looking forward to coaching the boys right after his son’s team plays.
“It’s fun, it gives us some camaraderie as well as competition, because my family is very competitive,” Rory said. “It’ll push each of us to do our best because we don’t want the other one to beat us; but just the same we’re proud of each other for doing what we do.
“My family lives and breaths basketball, we always have. Miles, and my daughter, Haylee, both played for the Longhorns, I played basketball in Wyoming and my wife played basketball in Montana.”
Their styles are a bit different.
Miles gets a workout in coaching a game. He strolls the court and often squats. You’ll find him leaping in the air and pumping his fists with excitement when the Longhorns come through in dramatic fashion.
But good luck finding a photograph of Rory frozen in midair.
“I don’t stand up, I sit down,” he said. “But you’ll definitely hear my voice. And I try to keep it positive.”
A life in the game
Rory spent 15 years as a high school and college basketball referee and has coached on and off for more than 30 years at various levels.
“I can’t get away from the sport,” he said.
He played basketball at Big Horn High in Wyoming.
“There were 22 kids in my class,” he said.
That’s where he fell in love with the game.
“Up there it’s cold a good part of the winter so basketball is like religion,” he said. “That’s what we do.”
He was the boys junior varsity coach at Big Horn and he also spent time as a junior high coach.
Coaching Payson girls
Rory spent three years as Payson’s JV girls before gaining his only varsity head coaching experience as the PHS girls coach from 2003-04 through 2005-06.
“That’s when we were 4A,” he said. “We only had 900 something kids and we played Flagstaff schools that had 1,800 kids and we took third in the district. We played several D-1 kids and we held our own.
“We had a very good team and a very good run and several of those girls names are up on the school record board, which I’m proud of.”
He stepped down as the girls head coach to serve for several years on the PUSD school board. You can’t be on the board and coach a school-affiliated team.
“I haven’t missed anything as much in my life as coaching basketball,” he said. “I regret ever giving up the girls program when I did.”
Time for a changeHe inherits a boys team that has struggled mightily in recent years. The Horns have lost their last 20 3A East games and are just 2-38 in the region the past four years and 5-64 in the non-tournament games that count in the power rankings, including 0-18 last season.
“They haven’t had a winning season since 2012 and that’s unacceptable for this talent,” Rory said. “We’ve got a lot of good athletes; we’ve got good support from the community and the parents.
“My goal is to turn this into a winning program. I have never in my coaching years had a losing season and I don’t want to start now.
“The whole key is I’ve got to change the culture. You’ve got to have the mindset that you can win.
“Teams like Snowflake win year after year. They might not have as much talent, but they know how to win. We right now in Payson do not seem to have the ability to have that culture and we’re going to change that.”
Coaching his son
Miles set school assist records as an all-state point guard on a 2006-07 PHS team that reached the state championship game.
Rory coached Miles as an eighth grader.
“A lot of what I get in coaching is from him,” Miles said. “I think it’s exciting to see him back in the gym and see if we can’t make sure both teams are successful.
So, what kind of coach is Rory?
“Discipline and fundamentals are something he’s always preached,” Miles said.
“He’s very much an old school, hard-nosed type coach, which I think will definitely be a change for the better for the boys. He brings a lot of things that have been missing.”