Blackhawk's father-son team of John, Sean to be inducted together in WPIAL Hall of Fame
John Miller, longtime coach for the Blackhawk High School boys team, will be inducted into the WPIAL Hall of Fame. Miller's teams won four PIAA titles and eight WPIAL championships. Including six seasons he coached at Riverside, Miller's record was 657-280. He currently is coaching an AAU Drill For Skill girls team.
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Sean Miller might go two weeks without talking to his father. But there is always a connection between Sean and John Miller, and it has nothing to do with a cellphone.
"The greatest compliment I can pay him," Sean Miller said, "is that even though I might not talk to him every day, there is never really a day that goes by in my life where I don't think of him, or think of something he taught me or something he said.
"I think our relationship has grown over the years and I think we have such a strong bond from coaching and just being around the game of basketball."
Now, the two have another bond. The WPIAL announced its 2012 Hall of Fame class Thursday, and when the induction ceremonies take place at a June 1 banquet at Doubletree Hotel, Green Tree, it will be Miller Time -- times two. John and Sean Miller are the first father and son to be elected.
The WPIAL selects Hall of Fame members in different categories. John Miller was selected as a coach after one of the most successful careers in league history at Blackhawk High School, Beaver County. Although Sean Miller is the coach at the University of Arizona, he was selected as a player. He was one of the top point guards in WPIAL history and when his father won the first of eight WPIAL titles in 1986, Blackhawk's point guard was Sean Miller, who later had a fine career at Pitt.
"It really is an honor," Sean Miller said. "The fact that I'm able to be inducted the same year as my father ... it just makes it seem right because I am so much a product of him."
It was seven years ago this month that John Miller "retired" from coaching after 35 seasons, 29 at Blackhawk and six at Riverside. But there he was two nights ago, in a gym at Brashear High School, bouncing onto the court from underneath the basket and sternly telling a player, "That rebound has to be yours. It has to be."
Moments later, he yelled out plays to his team on the fly. Then he walked up the court and prodded his players in a loud voice, "Let's go fast with it."
John Miller, you see, hasn't stopped coaching. He is coaching a ninth-grade Drill 4 Skill girls AAU team that includes some of the top freshmen in the WPIAL.
John Miller is 69. As a coach, he is going on 25.
"I know," John Miller said. "I guess I just can't get the coaching out of my system."
John Miller's hair is mostly gray now, but it's almost as if these girls know his word is golden. They have learned about his greatness mostly from their parents -- and they believe in him.
"I love every minute I'm with him," said Cassidy Walsh, a freshman at Seton-LaSalle who was the starting point guard on the Rebels' WPIAL and PIAA championship teams this past season. "He's awesome. He just has so much passion for the game. Everything he says, you just learn from him."
John Miller also has a few other girls teams and some boys teams under his "Drill 4 Skill" umbrella, but coaches only the ninth-grade girls.
"It keeps me rolling," John Miller said.
In his days at Blackhawk, the Cougars rolled like few other teams in WPIAL history. His record was 583-222 at Blackhawk and his eight WPIAL titles is second only to legendary former Farrell coach Ed McCluskey. Miller also won four PIAA titles, which ties for second-most in WPIAL history. At one point, he won a WPIAL-record 111 section games in a row. Counting the six years at Riverside, his record was 657-280.
Dad drilled his son, Sean, in basketball years before Sean stepped on a high school court. Many remember the time Sean put on a ballhandling show in front of Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show." Sean Miller would rather be known for his play on the court instead of tricks.
He scored more than 1,700 points at Blackhawk, and that was before the 3-point line was instituted. He also shot better than 90 percent from the free-throw line for his career.
"For me, when I think of the WPIAL, I think of how it really helped shape me," Sean Miller said. "The two places and programs I always remember playing against were Aliquippa and Beaver Falls. I learned so much competing in games against those teams and even losing to those teams. It was a feeling you had playing against their toughness and talent and tradition.
"As I'm now a coach and reflect back to that feeling I had after playing those teams, I often talk to my teams about how that's the feeling we want to give opponents."
But the Miller coaching tree doesn't stop with John and Sean. John's other son and Sean's younger brother, Archie, just finished his first season as the head coach at Dayton.
First Published April 13, 2012 12:00 am