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Seminary degree helps ORU coach create winners on and off basketball court

Paul Mills, who recently coached the Oral Roberts University basketball team to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament, may be the first college coach to have a seminary degree.

Mills grew up a pastor’s son and played basketball with kids in his inner city-Houston neighborhood because it was the only sport he could afford. He called it the “sport of the poor” for Americans since all it requires is a basketball.

“I think because of the environment we grew up in, I was very much aware that even though we may not have much money, we can have a lot of joy in our house,” he says. “It stemmed from knowing Christ, and it also stemmed from having the ability just to be around friends through a 12-ounce rubber ball.”

READ: ‘It’s Jesus’ says Baylor coach after championship win


Whether it is business, law or medicine, Mills said everyone is active in some kind of ministry, and his just happens to be basketball. While Mills was an assistant coach at Baylor University for 14 seasons, renowned pastor and author Tony Evans served as the team’s chaplain. After hearing Evans speak to his team, Mills wanted to understand scripture as deeply as Evans did. That prompted Mills to attend to Dallas Theological Seminary. Mills completed an online master’s degree in biblical and theological studies from the seminary in 2020, which he says has helped him understand scripture more deeply and become a better coach.

“I actually went to seminary to become a better coach,” he said. “I have no desire to become a better pastor. I just went to seminary to become a better coach, because I want to better serve my players. From that perspective, it helped immensely.”

God’s word plays an important role in Mills’ life. He listens to Psalm 118 before every game. The passage is sentimental to him because his pastor father began every sermon by sharing Psalm 118:24: “this is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

“I share with our guys that ‘God didn’t make everyone 6-foot-10, so you have been gifted with something that very few people have been gifted with,’” Mills said. “They’ve all been gifted by God in some capacity to use the game of basketball for the right reason, and we share with our guys often that we want to use our God-given talents for God-given reasons. Whatever talent or God-given ability that you and I possess, we need to use those things for the right reasons.”

–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice News