Miller returns to Bell City as hoops coach

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The 25-year-old basketball coach had a hand in the Cubs' last state title.

Chris Miller was on the Bell City bench as a student assistant coach when the Cubs won their last state championship, during the 2003-04 season.

Miller, 25, is heading back to Bell City as the school's new basketball coach.

He was hired this week to take over the program. He replaces Brian Brandtner, who was terminated officially by the Bell City school board in March.

"I got the opportunity to help there back when they won their last state championship and there's good people there -- a good administration and staff," Miller said. "It's a good place to work at. I enjoyed my time there and I just [wanted] to move back to that area. The basketball is really good and I'm just happy I got the opportunity."

Miller also was hired to be the athletic director and a physical education teacher.

Bell City principal Matt Asher said several people applied for the position. But Miller stood out because he already had worked at the Class 1 school.

"He's a young coach with a lot of energy," Asher said. "I think we need some new energy in our program. I think he's going to work hard and get the respect of the kids. ... Chris has a little familiarity with both our program and our community. I kind of gave him a little bit of a leg up on the other [applicants] because he was familiar and people knew his work ethic."

Miller went to college at Three Rivers Community College then Southeast Missouri State. He spent the last two seasons as the basketball coach at Ellington High School, where he posted a 22-27 record. His team was eliminated both years in district play by his alma mater, South Iron, including a 79-47 loss in the district title game this past winter.

Miller also worked as a coach at Zalma for one year, the 2006-07 season. Before that he was an assistant coach at Portageville.

Bell City had its streak of seven consecutive district titles broken this past winter. The Cubs lost to Scott County Central in the district title game.

Bell City has made the Class 1 state playoffs seven times this decade, including winning state titles in 2002 and 2004.

The Cubs have missed the final four each of the past two seasons after making four consecutive trips to Columbia between 2004 and 2007.

"The last two years, they obviously didn't make it to the final four, which in Bell City, that's a big deal," Miller said. "We'll see what we've got. We're going to try to get these kids playing hard. From when I was down there, they've always played hard."

Miller said he did not get a chance to watch Bell City play during this past winter. The Cubs will graduate four senior starters off this year's squad, which went 15-11.

"I'm going to evaluate the team," Miller said. "The one thing we're going to emphasize, and I've always emphasized, is just really getting after it on defense. You can't win basketball games without playing it. And we'll work with what we've got on the offensive side of things, but everybody should be accountable on defense.

"As I said, one of the things I have to do when I get there is just see what we've got and try to get in some camps this summer."

Miller said that as far as he knows, Pat Niemczyk, the interim coach when Brandtner was put on administrative leave, will remain with the team as an assistant coach.

"As far as I know he is," Miller said. "I mean, I don't know. I worked with Pat when I was there and I liked Pat and he's got a lot of valuable knowledge."

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