(Special to 228Sports)
PERKINSTON — Mississippi Gulf Coast wanted to hire a men’s basketball coach with championship pedigree, college coaching chops, Mississippi high school coaching experience and a strong Coast connection.
The person who checks all those boxes is Owen Miller, the new Bulldogs head coach, who also has family ties to Gulf Coast athletic royalty.
“It’s a special place,” Miller said. “It’s a place I grew up around. My father played there. It’s a job I’ve always had my eye on, and I’m a little bit overwhelmed. I’m humbled to be in a position to lead the program and get it back where it deserves to be.”
Miller had a championship-winning career at Gulfport High School which followed 17 years as an NCAA Division I assistant coach. He coached the Admirals to the MHSAA Class 6A championship in 2014, and his teams made it to the semifinals two other times and the quarterfinals twice more.
“The importance of building relationships along the Coast cannot be overstated and we feel like we have hired someone who has already done that,” Gulf Coast Dean of Athletics Steven Campbell said. “We are excited to have Owen join the Mississippi Gulf Coast family and we look forward to building this program back to being championship contenders every year.”
“We are delighted Coach Miller is joining our Gulf Coast family!,” said Dr. Ladd Taylor, the Perkinston Campus/George County Center Vice President. “His considerable knowledge of the basketball landscape within our four-county district and extensive recruiting experience across the state of Mississippi and nation will immediately benefit our men’s basketball program.”
As an assistant coach, Miller helped lead teams to the Final Four in both the NCAA and NIT tournaments. His first coaching job was on Mississippi State’s staff from 1994-1997. The Bulldogs advanced to the Sweet 16 in 1995 before winning the SEC Tournament in 1996 and making it all the way to the national semifinals.
He was at the University of Texas at San Antonio from 1997-2004 where the Roadrunners won the Southland Conference Tournament twice to advance to the NCAA Tournament.
Miller spent two seasons at Colorado State before returning to his home state to coach on Andy Kennedy’s staff. He helped lead the Rebels to NIT berths in 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011. The 2008 and 2010 teams advanced to the semifinals in Madison Square Garden.
“I spent 17 years in Division I, and at every spot I recruited the state of Mississippi with emphasis on the Gulf Coast,” Miller said. “I got to come back and lead Gulfport High School for 12 years. It’s been a great experience. It’s bittersweet a little bit, but as you look at the Gulf Coast job and you look at the success there, it’s primarily been done with a lot of kids from the Gulf Coast. You have to get kids from across the state, but we’re going to put a big emphasis on doing a fantastic job right here in our backyard.”
Miller played for legendary Gulfport coach Bert Jenkins from 1986-89, winning state championships in 1987 and 1988. He went on to play two years at NCAA Division I Lamar University before finishing his college career at Division II Mississippi College.
He has a bachelor’s in public relations from Mississippi College and a master’s in education from William Carey University. He and his wife Hollie have been married 18 years.
“We want to have a championship team,” Miller said. “We’re going to play pressure basketball on both ends. We’re going to put a lot of pressure on the ball and play in the full court defensively. Offensively, as soon as we rebound the ball we’ll be running on offense. We want to score early if we get the chance.”
Miller’s father, Eddie, played basketball and ran track at Mississippi Gulf Coast Junior College from 1962-64 after playing on Jenkins’ first team at Gulfport. He was inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2007.
“He’s thrilled for me,” Miller said. “He was the first person I called after I got off the phone with Steven and Dr. Taylor. He had a great experience at Perk, so he’s thrilled. It’s special to be able to go back to a place where your dad played and lead the program. I don’t take that lightly. He’ll be out at our games, and so will my Mom. It’ll be a family thing. They’re very thrilled about me being given this opportunity.”
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING ABOUT OWEN MILLER
Southern Miss head coach and former Mississippi high school and junior college coach
“Owen Miller will do an outstanding job at Gulf Coast. He’s an outstanding coach and a better person. He brings a unique skill set and experience that will serve him well as well as strong Coast roots!”
Former Mississippi State coach who gave Miller his first coaching job on a staff which went to a Sweet 16 and a Final Four
“I’m really happy for Owen. We hired Owen right out of college. I knew him and knew his family because he’d been to our camps. I knew he had a really good basketball background because he’d played for two great coaches in Bert Jenkins (Gulfport) and Mike Jones (Mississippi College). I had no idea how good he was. He’s optimistic every single day, energetic and would do anything you’d ask him to do. He really knew a lot of basketball. I think we were very fortunate we were able to hire him.”
Florida State Associate Head Coach former Mississippi high school coach and assistant at Mississippi State
“Owen Miller is the perfect leader for the immediate and the future of Mississippi Gulf Coast. He is home, and he knows how to win. His diverse experience as both a college coach and a high school coach will have him connected in recruiting and capable of strategically adjusting from situation to situation. Congratulations to the administration on a terrific hire.”
Biloxi High School Head Coach
“Owen Miller is a flat-out Winner. He won as a player and won as a head coach. Gulf Coast basketball program has gained one of the best coaches in Mississippi. He has tremendous experience in the college game, and he will have Gulf Coast basketball program as one of the top JUCO programs in the state. GREAT HIRE!”
Pascagoula High School Head Coach
“I think Gulf Coast made a great hire. It’s good to have someone there who is homegrown and has done it before. He knows the area, and most importantly he knows our kids on the Coast. I’m looking forward to seeing what he will do. He was at Ole Miss and State, so he’s got ties across the state, and I’m happy with what Gulf Coast did. I’m excited about it.”