Rick McCrabb: Coaching 'always been my calling,' longtime MUM women's basketball coach says

Jan. 7—MIDDLETOWN — Coaches are judged by their wins and losses.

Those who lose more than they win typically are told to find a different profession.

Cheryl Miller, who served as assistant and later head women's basketball coach at Miami University Middletown from 1983-2004, had a winning record and a legendary career at the branch campus.

But as Miller nears her induction into the MUM Athletic Hall of Fame later this month — certainly a deserving honor — it's clear the scoreboard didn't define her coaching career.

She had 217 wins, 143 losses and won five Ohio Regional Campus Conference championships and four state championships.

Those numbers don't include the hundreds of lives she touched during her nearly 40-year career as coach and athletic director at MUM and before that her years coaching middle school basketball.

"She was the person with the most integrity I know," said Sharon Brunk, who served as Miller's assistant coach for 13 years after playing for her one season at MUM. "She cared for her players and made sure each one was part of the family."

Toward the end of Miller's coaching career, MUM won the state title, then barely won one game the following season, Brunk said. Miller was the same person, regardless of the outcome, and her goal was always improving her players on and off the basketball court, Brunk said.

"She wanted the athletes to have as good a time winning and losing," said Brunk, 61, who retired as a teacher in the Kings District in 2014 after a 30-year career.

That's one reason Jim Sliger, a former women's basketball coach and athletic director at MUM, enjoyed working with Miller, who served as his assistant coach from 1983-88.

They were "a good pair," said Sliger, who started coaching at MUM in 1977 and served as athletic director from 1995-2007.

After Sliger retired, Miller was hired as athletic director.

He called Miller "a wonderful blessing" to MUM.

"She treated people so well and cared for the athletes," Sliger, 70, said from his home in McCormick, S.C. "You can't deny the role she played in student development. She always had things in perspective. Winning was important, but developing students was more important. She was all about teaching them life lessons."

One of those lessons was doing what was right and never seeking the limelight.

Cheryl Ann Miller, 73, acts the same way she expected from her players.

While she understands being a hall of famer is inevitable after such an illustrious career, Miller seemed reluctant to talk about herself. She gave more credit to her players than her court strategy.

"You can't win without players," she said.

Being inducted into the MUM hall of fame, seven years after being inducted into the Preble County Sports Hall of Fame, is "certainly an honor and I'm humbled by that," she said.

Miller graduated from Preble Shawnee High School in 1968 and earned her bachelor's degree in physical education from Eastern Kentucky University. In 1972, she was hired to teach physical education and coach basketball at McKinley Middle School, then one of the five middle schools in the Middletown district.

She loved playing basketball. Coaching was the natural next step.

"That's always been my calling," she said about coaching. "I love sports and basketball is my favorite."

In 2022, Miller retired as athletic director at MUM, ending a 50-year career in education.

"It was time to get out," she said.

Now it's time to get in.

Another hall of fame is calling.



Miami University Middletown Ohio Regional Campus Conference ( O.R.C.C.) Women's Basketball Championships: 1986-87, 1987-88, 1988-89, 1991-92, 2001-02.

Miami Middletown Middletown Ohio Regional Campus (O.R.C) State Women's Basketball Championships: 1987, 1988, 1989, 2002.

Career record: 217-143


WHAT: 17th Athletic Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

WHEN: Jan. 27 induction ceremony begins with hors d'oeuvres at 5 p.m., dinner at 6 p.m., and the ceremony at 7 p.m.

WHERE: Miriam G. Knoll Campus and Community Center (Johnston Hall), 4200 N. University Blvd. on the Middletown campus.

HOF CLASS INCLUDES: Adrianna Moore-Leonard (basketball, 2016-2019), PJ Smith (golf, 2003-2005), and Cheryl Miller (basketball coach, 1983-2004 and Miami Middletown athletic director, 2008-2022).

TICKETS: The cost to attend is $40, which includes entrance into the basketball games that start at 3 p.m., hors d'oeuvres at 5 p.m., and a catered dinner at 6 p.m. Tickets are available by calling the Middletown Athletic Office at 513-727-3313 or by stopping by the Bennett Rec Center. For more information, email Abby Cramer at