Rob McClendon: Hello, everyone. Thanks for
joining us here on “Horizon.” Well, located about a half an hour north of Oklahoma City,
Langston, Okla., is home to the state’s only historically black college. And it’s here
on this small campus, in the middle of the Oklahoma prairie, that a pioneering woman
in her own right is beginning her journey back to coaching relevance. Our Courtney Maye
has the story of Cheryl Miller and how she’s using the lessons from her own life to change
the lives of others. Courtney Maye: It’s a long way from the lights
of Los Angeles to the lonely prairie of Langston, Okla., a journey basketball legend Cheryl
Miller says she’s glad she made. Cheryl Miller: The two years of trying to
get back into women’s basketball was the best thing that ever happened to me.
Courtney: A four-time All-American and a two-time national champion, Miller lead Team USA to
an Olympic gold. Miller: Winning an Olympic medal in Los Angeles
and having your family watch – that’s probably my greatest achievement.
Courtney: She became a Hall of Famer transitioning into sports broadcasting. Yet despite her
list of accomplishments, when she tried to return to coaching, her dreams were shot down.
Miller: It was the most humbling, gut wrenching, confusing, depressing time of my life. And
to hear irrelevant, no, to knock on doors that aren’t answered, phone calls that aren’t
returned. In our life we need to be knocked down a peg. We need to experience what a lot
of people feel as their daily life. I’ll speak for myself, I got to a point where I felt
that I was untouchable, that there was something Teflon about me. And this experience, like
I said was very humbling. It forced me out of my comfort zone.
Courtney: So she reached out to an old friend, her former athletic director at USC.
Miller: From a male role model, my dad’s the end all be all, and right there is Mike Garrett
– just a man of character, substance, knowledge of just life. And he was my sounding board
for two years where I’m like, “Mike, I can’t get hired.” I said, “I can’t even get a sniff.”
And he’s like, “Just be patient.” Courtney: And she was – until she picked up
the phone, and it was Garrett on the line. Miller: So I was at Magic Mountain hanging
out with friends and he said, “Are you ready to coach?” And I said, “Yeah, I’ve been telling
you that for the last two years,” and I said, “Where?” He said, “Here at Langston.” I said,
“Great.” I said, “OK, Langston. I know where OKC is, the Thunder. I know where Tulsa is,
WNBA the Shock.” He said, “I looked, and Langston’s smack dab in the middle, NAIA.” I had no idea
what NAIA is. I’d heard about it, but it was the fact that he was giving me the opportunity,
and I jumped at it. Mike Garrett: I knew if she got here, and
she started coaching, the way she is, that the young ladies would only grow and get better
as basketball players and certainly as young women.
Courtney: Prior to Miller coming to Langston, the Lady Lions lost 10 games in 2013, but
this year qualified for the national tournament, a turnaround Garrett says is reflective of
Miller’s coaching style. Garrett: The girls are kind of in awe of her
when she first got here. But when they start playing and she starts giving them kind of
corrective directions, then they realize how much she really knows of the game. And then
they also know how much she wants them to improve. She’s a consummate coach, and she
knows how to touch people and make them grow. Courtney: Lessons that Miller learned in her
own driveway with her little brother, NBA great Reggie Miller.
Miller: We’re always competitive. The advantage that Reggie always had was his mouth. I mean,
I couldn’t outtalk him. I mean, the guy just drove me nuts. So the best way to shut him
up obviously was to beat him. But you know to this day, there’s nothing friendly about
even playing, you know, a pickup game of horse. You know, it’s always competitive. You know,
at a 100 years old, we’re still trying to beat one another.
Courtney: I know sometimes you and Reggie would have games on the same night, your dad
would go with you and your mom would go with him.
Miller: I always felt that Reggie got the better end of the deal because he had my mom.
My mom was a tremendous cheerleader, and she wasn’t critical. But my dad on the other hand,
decent cheerleader, very critical. So he was always the one taking me to my games and watching
it. There’s something about having, whether it’s one parent or two parents supporting
you. That’s probably what I miss the most now that my mom’s not here, is the second
or the biggest transition of my life, you know, coming back to women’s basketball, coming
back to coaching. And, uh, wow, I didn’t think I was gonna get emotional about this – her
not being here. But I know she’s here, she’s always with me. But, yeah, that’s the missing
part right now in my life is my mom not being here.
Courtney: Values instilled in Miller that reflect now her character-building coaching
style. Miller: Every day you roll out of bed, make
a better you, be a better you. And try to impact somebody. And you’re gonna make mistakes.
We all make mistakes, but you gotta learn from ’em and more importantly you gotta admit
it. Be woman enough to say, “You know what, I messed up. I made a mistake. I shouldn’t
have said this, or I shouldn’t have done this.” And that’s gonna be lasting. That’s life lessons,
and once the basketball and life are like this, the sky’s the limit.
Courtney: A philosophy Miller says is changing lives, including her own.
Rob: Well, Coach Miller seems like she has quite the personality.
Courtney: She’s definitely animated, but don’t let that fool you because she’s about the
business when it comes to basketball. Rob: But she really acts like she likes her
players. Courtney: She does, and she even spoke about
one of her players, senior Lynette Holmes, and said that she could be one of the best
players that she’s ever coached. And she’s coached at USC with Lisa Leslie and Tina Thompson
and even in the WNBA with Bridgette Pettis, so for her to say that Lynette Holmes could
be one of the best players that she’s ever coached was really impressive to me.
Rob: So how did the Lady Lions season, how did it finish up?
Courtney: Well, they started out undefeated, and then they won their conference tournament
and made it to the NAIA Division I National Tournament. And they made it to the Sweet
16 in that, and then they finished up with a record of 28 and 4. And I just really think
that their success this season reflects her coaching style.
Rob: Which her coaching style kind of extends to even when you do an interview with her,
right? Courtney: Right. She even coached me a little
bit. She helped me out with my jumper, so that was helpful.
Rob: All right. Thank you so much Courtney. Courtney: You’re welcome.
Rob: Now, if you’d like to see Cheryl Miller’s basketball tips to the best 5-foot-6 shooting
guard on our set today, just head over to okhorizon.com and see our Courtney Maye get
schooled by the best.