Twenty-eight year-old Trey Mines began wrapping his things up for the day at his Pentagon post. D.C. afternoon traffic awaited. At the other end of that commute wasn't home, but a group of eager H.D. Woodson Warriors.
Call him "information service technologist by day, basketball coach by night."
Mines' "day job", at one of the nation's most important buildings, entails rendering IT services to all of the country's armed forces, directly supporting the Army's Chief of Staff, secretary, and the vice chief.
Originally from Richmond, Virginia, the son of a basketball coach went on to a playing career at Virginia State, following in the hoops footsteps he'd been surrounded by his entire life. While there, he genuinely committed to his role as a "student-athlete," majoring in Computer Information Systems, and eventually graduating with Cum Laude honors.
While late nights and early mornings were spent with his nose in books and in front of computer screens, Mines managed a stellar career on the hardwood, setting Trojans' records for points in a game (45), threes in a game (10), and threes in a career (227).
As college days came to a close and tassel-turning was imminent, a future in the game wasn't certain but a yearning for experiencing other cultures and societies was.
The soon-to-be-grad had big visions of working overseas and that vision was coming to fruition, as offers to play the game internationally sat on the table. Meanwhile, the Pentagon had also come calling.
To stay or to go? To work in his field of study or play ball?
"I would say that God works in mysterious ways. The Pentagon offer came through, and it was then that I was faced with a grown-man decision to make. I had to step back and think about life," Trey explained. "A lot of guys I grew up with went overseas and told me stories about not being paid on time and about how cut-throat it could be."
Engaged at the time, the unsettling experiences described by friends didn't provide much in the way of comfort during what was already a big transition period. Meanwhile, the benefits and security offered through the prospect of working with the government grew in appeal.
So, Trey headed to D.C.
"I was up here for the first year alone, just working and focusing on my career. I thought my life in basketball was over. I never even played a pickup game here," Mines said.
Little did he realize, that frame of mind would eventually change.
It began when his fiancé got a job at H.D. Woodson High School. Flashbacks to days on the court reignited a flame. One afternoon, he tied his laces and hit the court in a scrimmage with the JV team. That's when the coach, formerly of James Madison University, recognized who he was.
"Kevin Hargove coached against me in college. He saw me and he was like man…I didn't know you were here!"
Mines was asked to join the staff as his assistant and he accepted.
It wasn't long after that Coach Hargove had to leave his post. Though Mines was only twenty-four at the time, he was the only other paid coach on the staff as the head assistant and the principal determined, the best bet to take over the head role.
"At that point, you just have to trust yourself, especially with the interim tag on...In that spot, you know what it is, either you're successful or you're not gonna be named the coach next year."
Halfway through that 2012 season, the Warriors had ten wins under their belts...seven better than the win total for the entire season prior.
Mines admits now that the most intimidating aspect of his adopted role was feeling like a newbie to a neighborhood known for high-level hoops.
"I was the new guy in town; nobody knew of me. I had to learn on my own as far as being a head coach because nobody on my staff had ever been a head coach on the varsity level. Lot of learning and lot of growing on my own."
The self-teaching has proven effective. Through the unexpected waters the young coach has traversed, in a passion he thought he'd hung up for good, Mines has discovered a calling.
In his second year at the helm led the Warriors to a state title game appearance. In his third year, his team won the state championship, taking home the DCIAA trophy for the first time in school history.
This year, the team has managed to build even further, having already accomplished multiple feats unseen by a D.C. public school in decades.
With a down-to-the-wire victory over rival Theodore Roosevelt Thursday night, H.D. tied a tight bow on a clean, undefeated regular season record: the city's first in thirty years. But Mines will be the first one to tell you that that result was never a preseason goal.
"I believe you can't head this type of direction without some types of goals, not necessarily long-term goals, but you've got to have short-term goals," Trey said. "Not letting our short-term goals slip off kind of went into us being undefeated."
"Our short-term goal was to win every single regular season tournament that we had and we did that. We went undefeated in the league last year so another goal was to continue that streak. Then, winning the city title and the league title…all of those little goals are the reason we're able to continue winning."
Shooting for an undefeated record in the conference has led to H.D. proudly representing it. Monday, the Warriors were ranked No. 1 by the Washington Post; the first top-ranking for a D.C. public school in at least two decades.
Mines has built a formula that works. And don't think there's no intersect between his two professions.
"Working in this environment," he said as he left the Pentagon Thursday, "you're talking about the highest people in the Army. It's helped me become a better leader because at the end of the day, I have to manage my side to be able to deliver what's needed so we stay ready to defend our country. What I do here actually impacts the lives of soldiers."
Through the humbling value of the role described above, Mines says he has learned true patience, understanding and how the sum of parts can equal a great whole.
"Being in a leadership role is not necessarily always dictating but doing the best things for your team and understanding that everybody's there to do a job. As a leader, your job is to make sure everything comes together at the end of the day."
Not only has philosophy been injected into his coaching style, but ritual. Before every game, the Warriors meet as a team, pray together, and recite a short chant.
"All for one, one for all….together we stand, divided we fall. We believe in that wholeheartedly and that's the last thing we say to the team before we go onto the court."
Mines and assistant Donald Curtis have also emphasized the importance of the classroom. Through a partnership between Curtis' organization, Student-Athletes Organized to Understand Leadership (SOUL), and American University, tutors volunteer their time to the athletes every Tuesday and Thursday. The students are provided assistance in whichever area they feel they're lacking, whether it be SAT prep, reading, writing, math...
"When you invest in kids as another man trying to make sure they have what they need to go to college and make sure they're equipped for life, it builds a bond. And then when you can translate that onto the court, they can look at somebody who's done something that they're wanting to do. It just kinda makes the message come full circle."
Coach Mines has self-adopted a "Do as I say" not "Say as I do" teaching strategy. And that seems to be merely through passion for what he's chosen.
The former guard will often join his players on the court, challenging them through one-on-ones, shooting contests and suicides.
"I told them, ‘You'll never be able to shoot as much as me…seriously!" the Virginia State three-point record-holder said with a laugh.
His player-competitor from beyond the arc is 2014-15 freshman of the year, sophomore Derquan Washington, better-known to Coach though as "Bombs Away."
"He's taken a couple from NBA range….consistently. That's where he's taking his shots from; not from right at the three-point line. This kid is literally bombs away. He's hit seventy-something threes."
When asked for a few words that adequately describe each of his starting five and his key sixth man, bombs away wasn't the only player with the nickname.
"The Microwave." That is Tamontae Chambliss. The Warriors keep a steady six-man rotation so this combo guard's game has been vital to the team's success. Mines elaborated.
"He scores in bunches and heats up quick. It was a sacrifice for him not to start. He would be a key guy on any other DCIAA team."
"The glue." Point guard Clent McCoy. The player who Coach Mines says keeps the team together and is the key to the Warriors' success, McCoy plays with an unselfish style, putting assists and leadership above individual scoring.
"Man Among Boys." '14-'15 DCIAA Player of the Year Antwan Walker, a 6'7" forward with supreme athleticism, is one known for his dominance on the court in every aspect. His dunking and shot-blocking are skills that make him a fan favorite.
"Dirty work." Kavon Montgomery. Montgomery is one of those players Coach Mines said is a necessary component for a title-contending squad. The power forward will make the plays no one else is willing to…diving on the floor, grabbing board after board, and knocking down tough buckets. Mines summed it up nicely -- "He makes the gritty, heart plays."
Finally, "Mr. Everything." Kiyon Boyd: the guy who does it all.
Boyd was everything Thursday in the final seconds in the Warriors regular season finale at Theodore Roosevelt. In the game the head coach expected to be a battle…the one that had a perfect regular season on the line…Boyd hit the game-winning free throw with 2.1 seconds left on the clock. The point guard told reporters it was "the most emotional game of the year."
Coach Mines easily agreed, calling it the best environment he's experienced in his four years at H.D. In a league less-glorified for its competitiveness on the hardwood, the capacity crowd and close contest signaled good things for the conference.
"I think Roosevelt threw everything they had at us and they played extremely well and I was just proud for the city."
The 78-77 contest was just another feather in the cap of a team that's prepared itself well for the playoffs.
"We can play any style of game every offseason. I go and I look for games to schedule with contrasting styles. I want to play a team that's gonna slow the game down against us and we have to figure out how to win that game. I want to play a team that's gonna be able to press us the whole game."
"Going into the tournament, it doesn't matter who we face, I can look my guys in the eyes and make them feel calm and comfortable knowing that we've been here before, we've seen this before and you won this type of game before. So that's pretty cool for me."
As the first game of the playoffs rounds the corner this Thursday, that bond and the tenacity of the Warriors will tested once more.