Pat Miller grew up around great coaches in Janesville.
Dave Figi, Bob Suter, Stan DuFrane, Roy Coyle—who each lived within a long jump shot of Miller’s family home—and his father, Claude, were just some of the men that molded Miller growing up.
“I was always been around really good coaches,” Miller said Sunday afternoon. “One of the things I found out once I got out and about in the coaching world was how fortunate we were at that time growing up in Janesville with the high level of coaches that we had.”
All that quality rubbed off.
In 18 seasons as the UW-Whitewater men’s basketball coach, Miller’s teams have a 386-123 record and have won two NCAA Division III national championships, six WIAC regular-season titles and four conference tournament titles.
On Saturday, Sept. 28, at the Wilderness Resort in Wisconsin Dells, Miller will be inducted into the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.
“You look at the other names in there, it’s a great honor,” Miller said.
Miller was always interested in coaching, guiding YMCA and other youth squads growing up in Janesville.
He was a political science major at UW-Whitewater and worked summers at a Janesville law firm in preparation for going to law school.
But after he was a senior co-captain and shot 48 percent from 3-point range to help coach Dave Vander Meulen’s Warhawks win the 1988-89 NCAA Division III championship, coaching the game became his long-term objective.
Miller played professionally in Denmark for one season and then spent two years as head coach at Harvard (Ill.) High School.
In 1993, Miller joined Vander Meulen’s staff, and he has been at Whitewater ever since.
He took over the head coaching job in 2001 when Vander Meulen—who is a member of the WBCA Hall of Fame—retired.
The 1989 WIAC Max Sparger Scholar-Athlete Award winner doesn’t regret choosing to use his skills attempting to sway basketball referees instead of juries.
“I enjoy coaching, I enjoy teaching and I like being around the game,” Miller said. “It’s a better fit for me.”
And he is adapting to the new wave of basketball, where tossing up 3-pointers has made the “throw in to the big guy underneath” concept obsolete.
Miller, who lived on the outside as a player, admits his game would have fit right in with the modern-day concept, but the coach in him still has reservations.
“It probably would have been my strength,” Miller said. “I’m not sure how many programs and players are concerned about defense.
“It’s a lot of quick 3s and keep the floor spread, which at times is still a little difficult for me to get use to. I’ve always advocated taking the best shot, not the first available shot, but that has become an increasingly more difficult argument to win.”
Miller is entrenched in the Whitewater community, although opportunities to move to bigger programs have been out there.
“At the end of the day, it was always a decision based on family stability,” Miller said. “My wife (Kirstin) enjoys her job (as a registered nurse), my kids (Benjamin, 19 and Laurel, 15) enjoy living in Fort Atkinson and going to school there.
“You make those moves and it can become disruptive,” he said. “Whitewater has been great. One of my goals in coaching was to have long-term success. That’s a difficult thing to achieve year-in and year-out.”
That is what Miller has done at Whitewater. That is why is he being inducted into the WBCA Hall of Fame.
You can add his name to the long list of successful coaches that grew up in Janesville.