Tom Miller: UW-Whitewater coach back on bench

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Tom Miller
Monday, March 3, 2014

UW-Whitewater men's basketball coach Pat Miller never had a problem drilling 20-foot shots on a basketball court.

First at Janesville Craig High and then at UW-Whitewater, Miller's long-range accuracy put his name in the record books. Miller still ranks third all-time in Warhawk career 3-point accuracy (48 percent) and made 3-pointers (178).

So he knew something was wrong with him physically when he put up a 15-footer to begin a rebounding drill during the first week of basketball practice this fall.

“It literally went 8 feet,” Miller said.

Miller had been experiencing shoulder pain for some time. In July, it became worse.

“I thought I had a torn rotator cuff,” Miller said.

Miller had shoulder surgery in 1999 that included repair for a compressed nerve. He thought this was the same situation. He planned to hold off surgery until after the basketball season.

But the pain and numbness increased.

A workout regular, Miller suddenly couldn't do a pushup. He had trouble sleeping. His forearms would go numb while working the mouse on his computer.

When his 15-footer in practice fell halfway from his target, Miller knew something was up.

“I'd better go to the doctor,” Miller remembers thinking. “This is not good.”

The MRI did show that Miller had a torn rotator cuff. The doctor thought there might be a larger issue that was causing Miller his extreme discomfort.

Miller underwent an electromyogram (EMG), which records the electrical activity of muscles.

That was a day Miller remembers well.

“It was supposed to last 20 minutes,” Miller said.

After 90 minutes, a concerned doctor was not smiling.

“They thought it might even be MS (multiple sclerosis) or ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), Miller said. “I was pretty nervous.”

The final diagnosis wasn't that serious.

Miller had discs that were compressing his spinal cord along with bone spurs.

Waiting until the end of the basketball season no longer was an option.

Miller underwent surgery on Feb. 3. Miller's problem was similar to NFL quarterback Peyton Manning's, which caused Manning to miss the 2011 season.

Miller missed just three games due to the surgery.

He says he feels well, although is has to wait for the nerves to heal before he can begin physical therapy. He said nerves regenerate at a rate of one millimeter a day.

His golf clubs will remain in the closet.

“I don't think I be golfing for a while,” Miller said. “That's a wild card. I think I would hurt myself if I tried to play.”

But he's back on the bench and the intense pain is gone.

Miller had to suffer through a 74-57 defeat Sunday at UW-Stevens Point in the WIAC tournament championship game.

That pain will be gone when Miller blows the whistle for practice today.

This has been a season for recovery.

Tom Miller is a page designer/sports writer for The Gazette.

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