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High School Basketball Coach, Teacher Named Waubonsee Featured Alumnus
Scott Miller's formal education continued years beyond graduating from Waubonsee Community College, providing him with the depth and knowledge he has needed during a career in education that has spanned two-and-a-half decades.
But as Miller tells it, his time at Waubonsee and the examples set by his coaches and teachers at the college laid for him a foundation that has underpinned his professional journey as a coach and teacher, helping to bring him to his current position as Head Boys Basketball Coach and Department Chair for Physical Education, Health and Drivers Education at Glenbard East High School in Lombard.
"So much of what I learned at Waubonsee, I've carried it into my profession, into my coaching career," Miller said. "It's built around my time at Waubonsee."
Throughout his career, Miller, 49, of Glen Ellyn, has helped to mold young student-athletes, first at Plano High School and then, for the last decade-and-a-half, at Glenbard East.
For that dedication to education and the excellence he has demonstrated in his coaching career, Waubonsee Community College has chosen Miller as its featured alumnus for January.
Miller knew early in high school that, if he had his way, a career in teaching and coaching athletics lay ahead of him. As a multi-sport athlete at Yorkville High School, Miller said student athletics was a big part of his formative years.
Enrolling at Waubonsee in the early 1980s, Miller immediately signed on to play basketball for the Chiefs under then Head Coach Jay Bryant. Shortly after, at the invitation of Coach and current Waubonsee Athletic Manager Dave Randall, Miller also joined the Chiefs baseball team.
"I knew at Waubonsee, I'd find the opportunity to play collegiate sports," Miller said. "And I wasn't disappointed."
Miller graduated from Waubonsee in 1984 with an associate degree in education. From there, he moved on to Illinois State University (ISU), earning a bachelor's degree in physical education. He later earned a master's degree from Northern Illinois University in administration.
After ISU, he launched his high school coaching career, just as he intended. And success has followed at both of his stops along the way.
At Plano, Miller took a basketball program that won just two of 24 games his first season to a 23-10 season in 1998-99, finishing fourth in the state in the Illinois High School Association Class A bracket.
From there, Miller moved to Glenbard East where he again took over a struggling program and molded it into a championship contender.
"It was a struggle early," he said. "We were building."
But for the last 11 years, the program has averaged 21 wins a season, and in 2010-11, placed third in the state in IHSA Class 4A.
Miller attributes his success to several factors, including the support of his wife of 23 years, Lisa, and their children, Zach, 21, who attends Division II Hillsdale College in Michigan, and Aly, 16, who attends Glenbard South High School.
But Miller said the lessons he learned at Waubonsee on the playing court and classroom, alike, also have played huge roles in generating his coaching and teaching success.
While at Waubonsee, he never achieved athletic stardom, serving as a part-time starter on both the basketball and baseball squads. And after Waubonsee, he never played collegiate sports again. But Miller said his experiences on and off the playing surfaces, and the lessons he learned from his coaches, have stayed with him, helping to shape him into the coach and teacher he is today. His experiences with his fellow athletes at Waubonsee prepared him to relate to student-athletes of various cultural and ethnic backgrounds, as well as various levels of athletic ability.
"I learned how to adjust, to be a part of the team, to contribute, no matter my role," Miller said. "It helped me learn to be able to relate to all my players, whether they’re my best players, or the kids coming off the bench."
And the lessons he learned from his coaches taught him something just as valuable for someone who aspired to lead others.
"By watching those guys (Randall and Bryant), I learned how to be passionate, to be competitive, but to still develop a team," Miller said.
Miller draws pride from the athletic success his teams have achieved. But he also speaks glowingly of his work to steer his athletes toward lifetimes of success, whether in athletics or other pursuits. A few of his student-athletes have gone on to play Division 1 collegiate sports. His son, Zach, for instance, landed a spot on the men's basketball roster at Northern Illinois University, before leaving recently for Hillsdale. But most, he said, will end their athletic careers shortly after high school, just as he did.
Miller said he points these students toward pursuing excellence in other areas of life. And he said he counsels many that a great jumping-off point can be found at community college.
While some students might question what community colleges offer, Miller tells them of his experiences at Waubonsee, where he was able to attain a quality education, while also playing sports.
"The ability to do those things made my Waubonsee experience all the better," he said. "The education you get depends on you. When it comes to college, any college, you get out of it what you put into it."