Oregon Tech’s coach nears 1,000th victory
The Associated Press
Danny Miles is conflicted about approaching the rare 1,000-win milestone.
While he appreciates what it means for the Oregon Institute of Technology and its fans in Klamath Falls, Ore., which have supported him all these 43 years, he would prefer that all the attention stay on the Hustlin’ Owls.
Miles is just that kind of basketball coach. Team first.
“We’ve never even talked about it with the team. I’d love to get it over with to get the focus back where it belongs,” he said. “But the community seems to be real excited about it and the local media has really pushed it. It’s going to be a special night, just because it doesn’t happen very often. So it’s something you can share with every coach and player you’ve had, and all the fans.”
Miles, 68, is sitting at 998 wins at NAIA Division II Oregon Tech. This weekend, he’ll have a chance to reach 1,000 with back-to-back home games against Eastern Oregon and the College of Idaho.
Only one other coach of a four-year men’s program at any level has reached 1,000 wins: Harry Statham at Div. II McKendree University in Illinois, who, in his 48th season with the Bearcats got his 1,075th win on Monday against Illinois-Springfield.
Pat Summitt, who coached the Tennessee women from 1974-2012, is the winningest college coach of all time, finishing with 1,098. Among NCAA Division I men’s coaches, Mike Krzyzewski has compiled 972 career wins at Army and Duke.
Memories that stand out for Miles include his three national championships. But a moment that particularly touched Miles happened in 1996, when the Owls faced undefeated Life University of Georgia. Jake Carr, the last player on Miles’ bench, nailed a pair of free throws with a second left to give OIT the victory.
“It’s the only time I’ve ever had a player carried off the court by the fans. It was so neat because I think he only scored six points all season,” Miles said. “I think it’s every coach’s dream to have a kid who doesn’t play very much be the hero in a big game.”
While he’s spent his entire career in the southern Oregon town of some 21,000 residents, Miles has commanded national respect.
The Cascade Collegiate Conference Owls won national NAIA Div. II championships under Miles in 2004, 2008 and 2012. They’ve had 10 seasons with 30 or more wins. They’ve won 14 district or conference championships.
Miles himself has been named NAIA Coach of the Year three times, and Cascade Conference Coach of the Year 10 times.
“This is a hard business. When you can coach for over 40 years and be successful the way he has, I think it’s an amazing thing. It really is,” said Jim Boeheim, head coach at No. 2 Syracuse, who has worked with Miles in the USA Basketball system. Boeheim himself has 938 wins with the Orange.
Miles is also known for developing the Value Points System, a statistical formula for determining a player’s efficiency — beyond points scored. He came up with the equation more than 40 years ago, long before the “Moneyball” mathematical analysis of statistics became popular. It is widely used today, even at the high school level.
When Miles started at Oregon Tech, he also coached the football, baseball and softball teams, so he estimates he’s coached more than 30,000 student-athletes. Not to mention the kids he’s trained in USA Basketball or overseas through Athletes in Action.
“From working with him, he’s just a really good guy,” Boeheim said. “He’s really intense. He loves the game and he’s a really good basketball coach. Obviously, his record shows that.”
Miles has had countless offers from other teams over the years. But his loyalty has remained with Oregon Tech. He said the best advice he ever got was from Frosty Westerling, the former football coach at Pacific Lutheran, who told him: “The big time is where you’re at.”
“I figured out that maybe where I’m at is a better situation than a lot of these guys in the so-called ‘big time,”’ Miles said. “This has been such a wonderful community and a great support for me and my family.”
The Oregon Institute of Technology is planning a big celebration for Miles’ 1,000th win. For his 500th, the Owls’ home was renamed “Danny Miles Court.”
But for the moment, Miles’ focus is on the games at hand and snapping the Owls (11-10, 4-5) out of a three-game losing streak. Despite being down for a couple of years, the always-optimistic coach sees brighter seasons ahead. Retirement? That’s not in the immediate future.
“We were talking about it the other day, I probably should have retired in 2012,” he joked. “I still love it. I’m 68 years old and I’m blessed with good health. I still love it.”
AP Sports Writer John Kekis in New York contributed to this report.