Growing up in Beaver County gives you some pretty unique bragging rights. We come from a place so rich in sports history that it could rival any other in the nation. Whether it’s Joe Namath, Pistol Pete Maravich, Mike Ditka, the Francona’s… you could name drop for hours.
However, I don’t know of a single family whose roots in coaching run so deep and strong as those of the Miller’s of Chippewa Township. Coming from Blackhawk High School myself, I may have a special appreciation for them. I remember learning from Coach John Miller and his daughter, Lisa, at Drill 4 Skill camp when I was just a young basketball star. He coached my dad when he was in high school and retired just before my brother would have played for him. Whether you’re a Cougar fan or not, there’s no denying what they’ve done for the game, especially at the collegiate level.
While I’m sure you’ve seen the Millers in the news recently in light of March Madness, they’re also both being honored with Coach of the Year in their respective conferences: A-10 for Archie and his Dayton Flyers, and Sean and his Arizona Wildcats in the Pac-12. This is the first time in history that two brothers have won this honor in the same year. In the spirit of their achievements, I thought we could take a stroll down memory lane and remember some of our favorite “Miller Moments.”
Sean is the oldest of the Miller siblings. My dad still tells stories about him as just a kid, performing at halftime of their varsity games showing off his ball-handling skills. Many people don’t know he actually showcased them on “The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson” when he was only fourteen, and also appeared in the movie “The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh” with Julius Erving.
As the Cougars’ starting point guard, he led them to a WPIAL title in 1986. His senior year, he averaged a double-double with 27 points and 11 assists.
His work ethic, discipline, and knowledge of the game were put on display when he began his collegiate career as a Pitt Panther. He started at point guard as a true freshman, and put up some serious statistics during his tenure at the school that still hold to this day.
Sean was named to the Big East’s All-Rookie team. He finished his career with a free throw percentage of .885. He is currently the 19th leading scorer in the University of Pittsburgh’s history with 1,282 points over 128 games. It’s no surprise that he decided to take his talents where they are most appreciated and get into coaching… or as we should call it now, the “family business.”
He hit the ground running spending time at Wisconsin, Miami (Ohio) and back at Pitt. He then moved on to North Carolina State, where he spent five years and made an appearance in the NIT tournament in 2000, in which they reached the semi-finals. His brother, Archie, was on the team at that time.
As an associate head coach, and then head coach, Sean spent nine years at Xavier leading the Musketeers to multiple NCAA tournaments. During his tenure, the squad won three A-10 regular season championships and two A-10 conference tournament championships. They also made two trips all the way to the Elite Eight, and Sean won A-10 Coach of the Year in 2008.
We all knew that Sean had made it to the big leagues, but then Arizona came calling. Signing on in 2009, he’s already had incredible seasons, won huge games, numerous awards and above all has been praised for his recruiting skills and the program that he has built in the wake of Lute Olson’s departure.
In only his second season with the Wildcats, he was named the Pac-10 Coach of the Year. He also led the team to its first outright Pac-10 title, an unbeaten home record, a top 10 ranking in the AP Poll, and an Elite Eight appearance. Not too shabby, right?
Five years into his tenure at ‘Zona, they reached #1 in the AP Poll, not to mention winning over 30 games for only the second time in school history, finishing with a 33-5 regular season record.
The Wildcats continue to flourish under Sean’s leadership, and he recently signed an extension keeping him on through the 2022 season, and although they haven’t made it to the big dance yet, he has the 4th best conference winning percentage in history at .734. This month, he won his third Pac-12 Coach of the Year title. With the momentum that they’re carrying right now, this could be the year for Sean and the Arizona Wildcats.
Ryan, or “Archie” as most of us know him, was a Cougar while I was in elementary school. I remember my parents taking us to watch their games, and listening to their playoff rounds on the radio (shoutout to Bob Barrickman at WBVP!) if it was too far to drive two little kids. I still have his autograph on one of my t-shirts and a program that I keep in my woman cave.
Archie played about a decade later than Sean, but had much of the same type of impact throughout his athletic career. From 1994-1997, our point guard led the Cougars to section wins, WPIAL titles, as well as PIAA championship in 1995 and 1996.
After high school, he took his talents to N.C. State where his speed, quickness, and ridiculous shooting accuracy led him to have a fantastic collegiate career. He owns several records that still hold up to this day. His career free-throw percentage is .846. His three-point field goal percentage is absolutely insane at 42.9%, almost making half of his shots beyond the arc. And he made 218 three-pointers in his time with the Wolfpack. All of those are still well within the top 10 in school history.
Archie graduated from N.C. State in 2002, he decided to try his hand at this whole coaching thing. We’re certainly glad that he did! He got his start at Western Kentucky before going back to N.C. State for a couple years. He then joined the staff at Arizona State University before moving on to Ohio State as an assistant under Thad Matta, who also mentored his brother, Sean, at Xavier. Following his time at OSU, he joined Sean at Arizona for two seasons as an associate head coach.
Finally, it was time for HIS big break. In 2011, Archie moved back East to become the head coach of the Dayton Flyers. In his first season, he led the Flyers to finish fifth in the conference and make an appearance in the NIT Tournament.
In his third season, he broke down all the barriers and took his squad all the way to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tourney! Since that breakthrough in 2014, he has continued to work hard and his team continues to improve their overall records, and has won the A-10 regular season championship the last two years.
His winning percentage as a Flyer is a whopping .693 and continues to climb year after year. He is the Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year for 2016-2017. The Flyers got bounced in the first round of the NCAA tournament this year, but it’s only a matter of time before a big name school comes calling and tries to take him out of the smaller Ohio market. I, for one, can’t wait to see where both of these brothers go as they continue to grow their still young, yet already incredibly successful careers!