Miller back into coaching

Time away did not diminish love of game

Photo courtesy of Heidi Bowman

Fairfield head basketball coach Jeff Miller (center, leaning over) talks to the Trojans during a timeout this past season.
Photo courtesy of Heidi Bowman Fairfield head basketball coach Jeff Miller (center, leaning over) talks to the Trojans during a timeout this past season.

FAIRFIELD — The coronavirus is contagious but there is another virus that is an affliction for some and it is known as the coaching bug.

Jeff Miller couldn’t get it out of his system after an extended period of time away from the game of basketball. He returned to lead the Fairfield High School girls basketball team to a 14-9 record this past season.

“I’ve been out of coaching, so it was great getting back into the game,” Miller said.

He has a career record of 184-82 as a head coach and he was also an assistant coach in Davis County (one year) and Ottumwa (six years).

He last coached at Davis County 12 years ago and left for a school administration position. This past season was his first season back.

“I came to Fairfield because we played Fairfield every year when I coached at Davis County and I found that Fairfield was a school of great character and had high expectations and accomplishments,” Miller said.

His journey back started by working with the Trojan girls during the summer.

“We met three times a week and put up a lot of shots,” Miller said. “I had a group of five to six girls that were regulars and it gave me an idea of what kind of players we had.”

One of those players was Shaylin Drish, but fellow senior Destiny Gridley also left an impression during the summer.

“Shay was a special playmaker, having the ability to make thing happen on the court that others just can’t do,” Miller said. “Destiny was a great talent as well having the ability to drive the ball and shoot from outside. We will miss all of the seniors that are graduating this year.”

Darby Kaska, Emily McAvan and Rachel Thomas were the other seniors.

“We also attended two team camps that helped with player development and again, gave us an idea of our strengths and weaknesses,” Miller said. “We had two players with notable experience, so we had some work to do get the other players ready to play at the varsity level. It was fun watching the underclassmen develop during the season. I’m looking forward to this summer and helping the girls develop for next season.”

Trisha Westphal, Olivia Jones and Anna Westphal were juniors this past season as were sophomores Delaney Breen, Anna Dunlap, Danielle Breen, Mallory Lynn and Hannah Simpson on the varsity.

“It was fun working with the players throughout the season,” Miller said. “I was blessed in having Ron Hunderdose and Pat Pacha as assistant coaches. They are both very knowledgeable coaches which led to more teaching for the players throughout the season.”

Returning to the coaching field was made easier for Miller by the constitution of the people he worked with.

“When it’s all said and done, Fairfield has a great group of girls,” Miller said. “They have great character, they are respectful, good teammates, willing to change things that made them better players and just a great group to be around. We are losing some key players and I am looking forward to working with the team to be prepared for next season.”

A coach is always thinking about what is next, but Miller has some fond remembrances of his first season back on the sidelines, and some regret. “Overall I enjoyed my first year at Fairfield,” Miller said. “There are a couple of games that I will remember for outstanding play and then there’s the fact that we did not win conference. That will always sting. But, ultimately I will remember the great personnel I was surrounded by including administration, coaches, community members and players. I am looking forward to next year.”