Legendary Coach Ralph Miller Passes Away
May 16, 2001
Corvallis, Ore. - Legendary Hall of Fame coach Ralph Miller passed away at his home in Black Butte, Ore., Tues., May 15 at age 82. Miller coached men's basketball at Oregon State University from 1971-89, compiling a record of 359-186, including four Pac-10 Conference titles.
'Oregon State University has lost a true giant,' Director of Athletics Mitch Barnhart said. 'His contributions to this school were immeasurable, and we certainly send our condolences to his family.'
Upon Miller's retirement, OSU's playing surface at Gill Coliseum was named Ralph Miller Court in his honor. In addition, the street immediately south of Gill Coliseum was renamed Ralph Miller Drive.
In one of the biggest moves in OSU athletic history, late athletic director Jim Barratt hired Miller in 1970 to coach the Beavers. His illustrious 19-year career in Corvallis included leading the program to four Pac-10 Conference titles, eight NCAA Tournament appearances, three invitations to the NIT, and seven Far West Classic titles. He led the 1981 team to the No. 1 ranking in the nation for nine weeks, and five of his teams were ranked in the top-10. His OSU honors include two-time Pac-10 Conference Coach of the Year (1981, 89), two-time Associated Press Coach of the Year (1981, 82), five-time District 8 Coach of the Year (1975, 80, 81, 87, 88), and NIT/Kodak Man of the Year in 1988. He coached 21 All-Pac-10 selections, and two consensus All-Americans - Steve Johnson and Gary Payton.
'I looked to Ralph as my mentor, but most of all as a good friend,' said his longtime assistant and former OSU head coach Jim Anderson. 'Every head coach in the program since Ralph has attempted to emulate the high level of achievement his teams experienced.'
Miller was born March 9, 1919 in Chanute, Kan., to Ruth (Filson) Miller and Harold C. Miller. He was a multi-sport athlete at Chanute High School, earning four letters in football and track, three in basketball, and one in golf and tennis. He earned all-state honors in basketball three times.
Miller enrolled at the University of Kansas in 1937, and became a two-sport star for the Jayhawks. He earned three letters as a football quarterback and three in basketball playing for Phog Allen. He earned all-conference honors on the hardwood as a junior and senior, and set numerous records on the football field. Prior to his senior year at KU he met his wife Emily Jean Milam, and they married Sept. 5, 1942.
Following his graduation from Kansas in 1942 with a degree in physical education, Miller served three years in the United States Air Force during World War II and was discharged at the rank of First Lieutenant.
Miller embarked on his hugely successful coaching career at Wichita State University in 1952, where he also earned a master's degree in physical education. In 13 seasons he guided the Shockers to a record of 220-133, a Missouri Valley Conference title, three appearances in the National Invitation Tournament, and one berth in the NCAA Tournament. He was named the MVC Coach of the Year in 1954 and '63, and will be inducted in the conference's Hall of Fame in September.
Miller left Wichita State for the University of Iowa. In six years, he guided the Hawkeyes to a mark of 95-51, two Big Ten titles (1968, '70), and 1970 NCAA Tournament. He was named the conference's Coach of the Year in 1968 and '70, and was the Midwest Regional Coach of the Year in 1965.
Miller retired as the sixth all-time winningest Division I coach with 674 victories, his teams had just three losing seasons in 38 years as a major college head coach. He was inducted into the James Naismith Hall of Fame in 1988, and received the National Association of Basketball Coaches Hillyard Golden Anniversary Award in 1997.
'This is a sad day for college basketball,' Beaver head coach Ritchie McKay said. 'Ralph had a huge impact on the game and in young peoples lives. My heart and prayers go out to the Miller family.'
Miller was preceded in death by his parents, brother Richard Miller, and son Ralph Miller, Jr. He is survived by his wife Jean, son Paul Milam Miller of Black Butte, daughters Susan (Miller) Langer of Vancouver, Wash., and Shannon (Miller) Jakosky of Balboa, Cal., sisters Barbara Topping of Minneapolis and Beverly Olson of Humboldt, Kan., 10 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
A private family service will be held this week. Memorial gifts may be presented to the Ralph Miller Basketball Scholarship Fund at Oregon State University through the Beaver Athletic Scholarship Fund (541-737-2370), the Ralph and Richard Miller Basketball Scholarship at Wichita State University (316-978-3636), or the Hospice of Redmond, Sisters, and Grant County (Ore.).