Archive for Sunday, June 29, 2003

Miller thrilled to stay put

Kansas basketball aide tickled to join Self’s staff

June 29, 2003

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After working day and night the past couple of weeks at Kansas University men's basketball camp, Ben Miller took advantage of a break in the schedule Saturday at Alvamar.

"I'm just having some fun with the family, sitting and splashing in the baby pool," said Miller, a picture of contentment with wife, Heather; 11-month-old son, Charlie; and 3-year-old daughter, Betsie.

"You try to steal a day here and there when you can," said Miller, who will take some official vacation time in early August.

At that time, he'll catch his breath and reflect on a whirlwind 21/2 months which started with his boss of the last 11 years -- Roy Williams -- leaving for North Carolina April 11, and culminated Friday with his accepting the position of director of basketball operations on new KU coach Bill Self's staff.

"It's been an exciting time, a busy time with the transition of coach Williams and the rest of the staff leaving and coach (Bill) Self and the new staff coming in," Miller said. "It's been fun having the new players and returning players here in June for summer school and helping with the transition. It's been fun, but very busy."

"Fun but busy" is pretty much how Miller described his entire 11-year stint at KU.

"It's hard to believe it's been that long. They can't get rid of me," joked Miller, a 1991 Luther College graduate who arrived at KU in 1993 to work on his doctorate in sports psychology while helping out in the basketball office.

He served as Williams' administrative assistant from 1995-99 and assistant coach the past four seasons.

"I came here and thought I'd be here a year," Miller said. "I love it here. My family loves it here. It'd be hard to imagine going somewhere else."

Miller, 34, turned down a chance to go somewhere else in April, declining an offer to work for Williams as an administrative assistant at UNC. KU coach Williams started rotating his third full-time spot so he could get administrative aides Jerod Haase and C.B. McGrath bench experience.

"That was a very difficult decision," Miller said of choosing not to follow Williams. "Coach Williams is the one who gave me a chance. I appreciate the opportunity coach Williams gave me to be part of what I believe is the best program in college basketball. Now I have the opportunity to learn from coach Self and continue working with these great players.

"He did not even know me two months ago, and he's given me the chance to continue to working with Kansas basketball."

Self said he was pleased Miller accepted his offer to stay.

"Ben has been absolutely great," Self said. "He's stepped to the plate, helped keep this thing together. I want to thank him for all he's done. With the addition of Joe Dooley to an already great staff of Norm Roberts, Tim Jankovich and Ben Miller, I'm confident we have as high a quality staff as anybody."

Miller agrees.

"You are talking about three guys with head-coaching experience, which is extremely impressive," Miller said.

Roberts is former head coach at Queens College, Jankovich at North Texas and Dooley at East Carolina.

"Those three guys have recruiting contacts all over the country. I've enjoyed working with Norm and Tim and am really looking forward to working with Joe, too," Miller added of Dooley, who was hired Friday.

Miller -- he said his new duties hadn't been finalized yet but could involve helping academics and recruiting -- said goals down the line included returning to the bench.

"Coach Self knows I want to coach," said Miller. "He will try to help me have that opportunity again when the time is right, whether here or someplace else. I feel very confident in that he will help me become a better coach."

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Career highlights galore: Miller said he had had many personal highlights the past 11 seasons. Two straight Final Fours to complete the Williams era may have been the finest moments of all.

"It's hard to beat that," he said. "I think the experience going back again and having a great opportunity to win the whole things this year ... I think I'll always remember the toughness and competitiveness of Nick (Collison) and Kirk (Hinrich). They are really special."

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Hinrich in Vegas, too: Kirk Hinrich didn't return to Lawrence, after all, following the NBA draft. He joined Collison and several other pals for a weekend in Las Vegas, celebrating their selection as lottery picks Thursday. Hinrich of the Chicago Bulls and Collison of Seattle's SuperSonics will head to their new NBA cities early next week for news conferences.

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