CCHS Coach Jim Miller retires, leaves legacy of hard work and mental toughness behind
February 22, 2021
Jim Miller, head coach of the Carbondale Community High School men’s basketball program, is retiring after this season.
On Feb. 2, Miller announced after this basketball season, which had been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he will be retiring after 23 years.
“I think every year has been a challenge, we’ve had some really good athletes come through here,” Miller said. “I have been so fortunate over the years to have those athletes and to have a great coaching staff that has been all-in for the kids.”
Across his 23 seasons in Carbondale, Miller has won 424 games, not including any from this season, and he has appreciated the athletes he has had the opportunity to coach.
“Here at Carbondale it seems like we always have athletes, that’s been a blessing,” Miller said. “The athletes that we have, they sacrifice they give of themselves for the betterment of the team.”
As far as what Miller has brought to Carbondale and coaching, the men’s program’s junior varsity coach Greg Storm said consistency played a part.
“He’s been a consistent individual in the school and the community part of the program,” Storm said. “He’s always helping kids out. He’s continued the culture, continued the tradition of coaches before him.”
Miller took two of his teams to state in 2004 and 2005, finishing fourth in 2004 and second in 2005; he said that what matters though is the kids in the program.
“I’ve had quality coaches and I have had great athletes,” Miller said. “It doesn’t matter how good or bad a coach you are if you have good kids that try to do the things you ask them to do and that work hard.”
Miller has been coaching at the high school and college level of basketball for 38 years and he will be retiring as a teacher after this year, so he said it was time to step away.
“This is my [38th] year coaching basketball at the high school and college level; it’s time,” Miller said. “I’m retiring as a teacher and I thought it would be a great opportunity for the school to go out and get a coach that can actually commit long term.”
As far as what Miller plans on doing when he leaves the gym at Carbondale one last time, he looks forward to spending more time with his family.
“My wife and I, we have 11 grandkids now, they keep us busy,” Miller said. “I’ll still be in the area, I’m not going anywhere because this is our home.”
Miller is thankful that he’s been able to call Carbondale home for the last 23 years, watching his kids grow up here.
“We’ve spent 23 years of our life here, my kids grew up here at Carbondale high school,” Miller said. “I’m so grateful that they had the chance to go to Carbondale.”
Looking back on his early coaching days at Fairfield High School and Wilmington High School, Miller said he has more understanding now than he did.
“I think with age you get more understanding that kids respond to different things differently,” Miller said. “Sometimes it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.”
Miller almost retired from coaching in Fairfield, because of the aspects of the community he was in.
“When I left Fairfield, I was ready to retire at Fairfield it was a small community,” Miller said.” It was a community that was family-oriented and we had some really good friends there.”
When former Carbondale athletic director Vicky King and former principal John Divley spoke with Miller he remembered his time in Charleston, Ill., and the aspects of a university town.
“When Vicky King and John Dively, who was the athletic director and principal at that time, when we talked,” Miller said. “I come from Charleston, Illinois, it is a university town, I know what a university town has to offer for families.”
Bringing his family to a university town was a big part of why Miller came but he also wanted to coach somewhere where basketball is important.
“Southern Illinois and Carbondale… you’re in the hot bed of basketball,” Miller said.”Everybody here in this part of the state they love their sport they love their athletics, I just wanted to be a part of that.”
With all the success Miller has had at Carbondale, what matters most to him is seeing the kids become men of character.
“It’s really nice to have kids from 20 years ago or 10, 15 years ago and they look you in the eye and they say coach I get it,” Miller said. “ I understand now why you did what you did for us.”
The sentiments of Miller and the expectations he has for the men in his program can be exemplified in one thing he shouted during practice.
“If you’re not going to do the easy things, the simple things, then what are you going to do when it becomes hard?,” Miller said.
In Miller, the Terriers have a man that wants to see not just the best for his players on the court but the best for them in life.
“Challenging them to be their very best, when you see a kid not working towards that it is frustrating,” Miller said. “I want my kids to really strive to attain their absolute best position they can not only on the basketball court but in life in general.”
Assistant coach Jeff Hansen said that Miller expects the best out of all the men in his program.
“He demands the best out of his kids no matter what, sometimes it’s tough love,” Hansen said. “There are so many people that will come back and give him a handshake and say ‘I get it now.’”
Jim Miller might be remembered in Carbondale as a successful coach, but to him the kids in his program come first.
“He absolutely loves kids, sometimes he’s gruff [and] can be in your face at times,” Hansen said. “He really has an affection for the youth, and will do anything for a lot of these kids.”
Miller has won seven South 7 conference championships, 10 regional championships and two sectional championships but he said you don’t worry about the wins.
“You never worry about the wins. The wins are more of a secondary factor,” Miller said. “It is about the character of your kids, it’s about the challenges you put in front of your kids and how they respond and react to those challenges.”
Miller said long before he set foot in Carbondale, there was a line of great coaches and he just continued what they had started.
“Way before me there was a lot of great coaches here, John Cherry, Doug Woolard, Walt Moore, Tim Bleyer, DeWayne Kelly,” Miller said.”They all set the bar, it’s not the bar that I set it’s the bar that those guys have set for the program.”
As far as what Miller has meant for the Terriers in his time here, Storm said he has appreciated the way Miller approaches the game.
“To be around Jim and learn from him, to be around his style of going through practices and games,” Storm said. “It’s a huge learning experience.”
Looking back across his 37 years of coaching, Miller remembered the 2004-2005 season with Carbondale when they finished fourth in the state in 2004 and second in 2005 in class 2A.
“I would say the 2004-2005 season, we had some really good athletes, but we had a professional in Justin Dentmon,” Miller said.”The 2005 season we lost four starters, being able to get second following a fourth place finish in a season was I think pretty special.”
As successful as Miller has been in his time at Carbondale, Hansen said that what matters most to Miller is the kids.
“He leaves here as the all time winningest coach,” Hansen said. “He’ll be the first person to tell you that’s the kids, it’s the kids that win the games.”
Sports Reporter Adam Warfel can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @warfel_adam.