By Kyle Daubs • Column

Jeff Miller has done enough to cement his coaching legacy as a Hall of Fame high school basketball coach. 

We could talk about the combined 335 accumulated wins at both Windsor and Charleston. 

There are the Apollo Conference championships, the Sweet 16 appearance and the undefeated girls basketball regular season, too. 

But let’s look past the wins and losses. 

Starting as a statistician 

I love the game of basketball, which is probably my favorite sport. In high school, I wasn’t able to compete in sports until my senior year due to health issues. By then, making a real contribution to the basketball team wasn’t likely. I had some good friends on the team, though, so I offered to keep the stats for Coach Trevor Doughty. 

For some reason, I felt the need to offer my services to the girls’ basketball team, too. That meant back-to-back road games on Thursday and Friday or, sometimes, Monday and Tuesday. 

I didn’t know Jeff Miller. He wasn’t even my driver’s education teacher. I had zero incentive to do this. 

I am a big believer in the “higher-order,” because who knew that this would be the start of something that would change my life forever. 

From my senior year of high school to my senior year of college, I was in the trenches of girls’ basketball at CHS. That first 7-19 season was the worst of Miller’s tenure, but I noticed something special taking place.

After I graduated, I elected to keep tracking stats for the girls team. Miller, Amy Jackson, and Ceci Brinker somewhat adopted me. I wasn’t a coach. I was now a freshman at Eastern Illinois University aspiring to become a special education teacher. In no way, shape or form did I ever think that I was coach material. However, sitting with that group during these seasons were quite honestly some of my favorite memories. 

Learning basketball the right way

I watched Miller go through two eight-win seasons the next two years. Miller hates losing, as anybody can tell. He never likes to talk about the losing seasons, but that is where I believe you learn more about a coach. 

I remember those seasons clearly. The 8-18 team made two-holiday tournament championships that year. The following season, the 8-16 squad started three freshmen and were competitive in most of its games. 

On road games, I sat on the bus while Miller tried to piece together the positives. He knew the talent wasn’t there, yet but he knew there was something there. Miller never backed down from a challenge, even when the team had to play against some very good Effingham teams. Sports are half physical and half mental. Those years were great learning experiences. 

Being a support system

I could go on about how Miller has helped me become a basketball coach. I’ve studied his offense, defense, and he is my go-to person to talk to after every game no matter the time of day.

I’ve always joked that Jeff and Kelly have hundreds of adopted children, but I have always taken solace in that I truly felt welcomed by the family. He became the person that has always been there in my time of need. 

Jeff was the first person I contacted when I was under the influence after my dad died and he listened to me talk about my feelings. 

Jeff was the first person I told about having suicidal thoughts, not having the desire to live. He told me that I needed to tell my wife. 

It was Jeff who listened and allowed me to divulge that I had depression so I could find help.

He cares about people off the court as well. 

Hall of Fame person

I don’t have a vote, but Miller has done enough to make the Hall of Fame. Charleston hasn’t been spoiled with this type of basketball success since Merv Baker coached in the 1950s and ’60s. In the end, it doesn’t matter because we are thankful. 

I can’t speak for everybody, but I think I can summarize it pretty well. 

From the coaches, past, and present: Thank you for allowing them to collaborate and help build this winning program. 

From the community: Thank you for nearly 250 wins over 14 seasons. 

From the players: Thank you for helping them become better players and people. 

Last, I would like to thank you. 

Thank you for changing my life – and being a reason that I am still alive.