Friends, former players remember the "Wizard of West Fifth Street".
Local basketball coaching legend Howard “Corky” Miller passed away Friday morning following an extended illness. He was 81.
After graduating from Unioto in 1950, Miller served in the US Navy during the Korean War. His son Mark says his talents on the basketball floor caught the attention of the Marines who signed him up for their traveling team playing several games across the country including at the Boston Gardens.
Corky coached the Chillicothe Cavaliers Boys Basketball team from 1962-1970, but he made his mark at the college level. For 15 seasons, Miller coached the Hilltoppers at the Ohio University-Chillicothe branch and led them to 10 Conference titles and 9 State Championships and a remarkable 301-75 record. Miller even coached the Hilltoppers to a Men’s Tennis State title. He also coached the Hilltoppers’ baseball team.
Miller made a lasting impact on many of the people who met him, from players to coaches and even officials.
“We lost a friend. A confidant…” said longtime friend and former OU-C Athletic Director Bob Christian who hired Miller in 1972. “A great person in our fraternity of coaching…. I told our Dean, ‘I don’t know basketball… if this program’s going to go, we need somebody who can get it going.”
Miller was famous for his engaging personality. Christian said “He related to those kids like a father… the kids responded”.
Miller said that connection was no different off the court “Dad was like that with any student that he had also.”
“I think we learned from him every day” said Dick Hinty, Miller’s former assistant and Lady Hilltoppers Head Coach. “As a coach, as a compadre in the education field… he was always able to get the best out of kids at all times.”
While Miami University has long been known as football’s “cradle of coaches”, Miller was leaving his own mark on basketball across the Scioto Valley. It’s hard to pinpoint how many coaches he influenced over the years.
One of them was Gary Kellough, “Growing up and playing for Corky, I learned how hard when you’re the underdog you have to work to be successful.” Kellough’s Chillicothe team won the Division 2 State Title in 2008.
“He developed one side of me that you need as a coach, there has to be a lighter side to what you’re doing to… you might go into halftime in a close, hard fought game and just to break up the tension he might look at ya and say ‘Where are we gonna stop and eat after the game? You want soup or a hamburger?’ He taught me when I’m in a real critical position to reflect on something else and it might help you make your decision.”
“He didn’t care who your parents were or what you had” said Miller. “If he liked you, you were a buddy”.
Miller also worked a few seasons as color analyst for Chillicothe Basketball radio coverage on WFCB in the 1980's.
Funeral services will be held 1:00 pm Tuesday at the Haller Funeral Home, Rev. Lawrence Hummer officiating. Military graveside services will follow in St. Margaret Cemetery. Friends may call 1-3 and 6-8 pm Monday at Haller’s. Memorial contributions may be made to the Corky Miller Scholarship Fund, c/o Ross Co. Banking Center, 222 E. Main St., Chillicothe, OH 45601. His online memorial register is available at www.HallerFuneralHome.com.