Ralph Miller
Ralph Miller.png
Miller from 1968 Hawkeye
Biographical details
Born(1919-03-09)March 9, 1919
Chanute, Kansas
DiedMay 15, 2001(2001-05-15) (aged 82)
Black Butte Ranch, Oregon
Playing career
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1970–1989Oregon State
Head coaching record
Accomplishments and honors
MVC regular season (1964)
2 Big Ten regular season (1968, 1970)
4 Pac-10 regular season (1980–1982, 1984)
AP Coach of the Year (1981, 1982)
Henry Iba Award (1981)
NABC Coach of the Year (1981)
UPI Coach of the Year (1981)
Pac-10 Coach of the Year (1981, 1989)
Military career
Allegiance United States
US Army Air Corps Hap Arnold Wings.svg
U.S. Army Air Forces
US-O2 insignia.svg
 First lieutenant
Battles/warsWorld War II  (stateside)
Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 1988
College Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2006
College football career
Career history
High schoolChanute (KS)
Career highlights and awards

Ralph H. Miller (March 9, 1919 – May 15, 2001) was an American college basketball coach, a head coach for 38 years at three universities: Wichita (now known as Wichita State), Iowa, and Oregon State.[1] With an overall record of 657–382 (.632), his teams had losing records only three times. Prior to his final season, he was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame on May 3, 1988.[2] Miller played college football and basketball at the University of Kansas. His performance on the football team led to him being drafted in the 1942 NFL Draft, but he chose to serve in the military instead of playing in the NFL.

Early life

Born and raised in Chanute, Kansas, Miller was a standout athlete in high school and college. At Chanute High School, he won letters in football, track, basketball, golf and tennis. Miller was an all-state basketball player for three years and set the state record in the low hurdles in 1937. He was all-state three consecutive years in football and basketball.

In college at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Miller won three letters as a football quarterback and three in basketball. By 1940, he was beating the 1932 gold medalist in the decathlon Jim Bausch in seven of ten events.

As an undergraduate, he was coached by the legendary Phog Allen. In one of Miller's classes, a guest lecturer was Dr. James Naismith, the inventor of basketball. Miller was also a member of Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity at KU.[3]

He earned a bachelor's degree in physical education in 1942. He also drafted in the 18th round (167th overall selection) of the 1942 NFL Draft by the Brooklyn Dodgers, but declined playing in the NFL and instead took a personnel department job with the Aero Parts Manufacturing Company. When the company formed the Wichita Aero Commandos football team in 1942, Miller became the starting quarterback.[4] Miller later joined the Army Air Forces for three years, leaving as a first lieutenant.

Miller's first coaching position was at Mount Oread High School in Lawrence, and the team consisted primarily of professors' sons. The season did not go well and left a sour taste in his mouth towards coaching basketball.

Miller didn't have to go overseas during World War II because of knee problems that began at KU. He enlisted in the Air Force and held desk jobs in Florida, Texas, and California. After the war, he became an assistant director of recreation and oversaw a swimming pool and playground in Redlands, California. Soon, he joined a friend in the business of hauling fruit.

In 1949, eight years after his ill-fated first attempt at coaching, a friend from Wichita named Fritz Snodgrass sent Miller a telegram asking if he might be interested in returning to guide his son's team at East High School. At East, Miller became a student of the game. He was fascinated by the full-court press zone defense that had been developed at Kansas in 1930, but he wondered why it was only used after a basket was made. Nobody could give Miller a solid answer, and so he began tinkering with ways to press after missed shots, too. His idea was to assign each player a man to guard, and when an errant shot went up, they were immediately to pick up their man. His ideas were very successful. In three years at East High, Miller's teams finished second, third and first in the state using his system of execution and pressure basketball.

College coaching

University of Wichita

In 1951, the president of the University of Wichita (now Wichita State University) offered him a job. Miller spent 13 years at Wichita, winning 220 games, earning three NIT berths and a spot in the NCAA tournament in 1964.

University of Iowa

In the spring of 1964, Miller left for the University of Iowa of the Big Ten Conference, where he built one of the greatest offensive juggernauts in NCAA history. In his first season he coached Jimmy Rodgers who would go on to be a notable coach in his own right.[5] The Hawkeyes averaged more than 100 points a game in Big Ten play in 1970 and went undefeated (14–0) in the Big Ten with a 19–4 regular season record. Entering the NCAA tournament, Iowa was on a sixteen-game winning streak and played their first game in the Sweet Sixteen, but were upset by independent Jacksonville,[6] the eventual national runner-up. After a consolation win over Notre Dame, the Hawkeyes finished at 20–5 overall.

Oregon State University

A month later in April 1970, Miller was offered the job at Oregon State after Paul Valenti stepped down.[7][8][9][10][11] Miller had only two losing seasons in 19 years at OSU, and retired as the second winningest head coach in Oregon State history with 359 victories, behind Slats Gill.


Miller retired at age 70 in 1989,[12] his final regular season win was a comfortable one, over rival Oregon at a sold-out Gill Coliseum on Sunday, March 5.[13] The Beavers lost to top-ranked Arizona in the semifinals of the Pac-10 tourney,[14] then fell in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Evansville at Tucson.[15][16]

Miller's career record was 657–382 (.632);[17] the 657 victories were the most by an active coach and ranked him seventh among major college coaches, trailing only Adolph Rupp (876), Hank Iba (767), Ed Diddle (759), Phog Allen (746), Ray Meyer (724), and John Wooden (664). Miller's teams actually won 674 games, but the total was reduced by forfeits because one of his players, Lonnie Shelton, had signed with an agent while still in college in 1976.

The floor of Gill Coliseum is named Ralph Miller Court, and the street in front of the venue was renamed Ralph Miller Drive shortly upon his retirement.

Personal life

In the fall of 1937 at the University of Kansas, Miller took a physiology class where the students were seated alphabetically. Next to him was an attractive co-ed from Topeka named Emily Jean Milam; five years later they were married. The couple had two sons, Ralph Jr. and Paul, and two daughters, Susan Langer and Shannon Jakosky.[18]

The gymnasium at Chanute High School is named after Miller, and is home to the Ralph Miller Classic, an eight-team tournament.

Miller had an unequaled addiction to cigarettes, and chain-smoked More brand cigarettes during practices, on team buses, and in his office.[19][20]

A dozen years after his retirement, Miller died in his sleep at age 82 at his home at Black Butte Ranch, northwest of Bend.[1][20] He had suffered from congestive heart failure and complications from emphysema.[1] His wife Jean died at age 93 in 2014 in Bend.[18]

Head coaching record

Statistics overview
Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
Wichita Shockers (Missouri Valley Conference) (1951–1964)
1951–52 Wichita 11–19 2–8 6th
1952–53 Wichita 16–11 3–7 6th
1953–54 Wichita 27–4 8–2 2nd NIT First Round
1954–55 Wichita 17–9 4–6 4th
1955–56 Wichita 14–12 7–5 4th
1956–57 Wichita 15–11 8–6 4th
1957–58 Wichita 14–12 6–8 4th
1958–59 Wichita 14–12 7–7 4th
1959–60 Wichita 14–12 6–8 4th
1960–61 Wichita 18–8 6–6 4th
1961–62 Wichita 18–9 7–5 3rd NIT First Round
1962–63 Wichita 19–8 7–5 2nd NIT First Round
1963–64 Wichita 23–5 10–2 1st NCAA University Division Elite Eight
Wichita: 220–133 81–75
Iowa Hawkeyes (Big Ten Conference) (1964–1970)
1964–65 Iowa 14–10 8–6 5th
1965–66 Iowa 17–7 8–6 3rd
1966–67 Iowa 16–8 9–5 3rd
1967–68 Iowa 16–9 10–4 T-1st
1968–69 Iowa 12–12 5–9 8th
1969–70 Iowa 20–5 14–0 1st NCAA University Division Sweet 16
Iowa: 95–51 54–30
Oregon State Beavers (Pacific-8/Pacific-10 Conference) (1970–1989)
1970–71 Oregon State 12–14 4–10 6th
1971–72 Oregon State 18–10 9–5 3rd
1972–73 Oregon State 15–11 6–8 5th
1973–74 Oregon State 13–13 6–8 5th
1974–75 Oregon State 19–12 10–4 2nd NCAA Division I Second Round
1975–76 Oregon State 18–9* 10–4 2nd
1976–77 Oregon State 16–13 8–6 3rd
1977–78 Oregon State 16–11 9–5 2nd
1978–79 Oregon State 18–10 11–7 3rd NIT First Round
1979–80 Oregon State 26–4** 16–2 1st NCAA Division I Second Round
1980–81 Oregon State 26–2** 17–1 1st NCAA Division I Second Round
1981–82 Oregon State 25–5*** 16–2 1st NCAA Division I Elite Eight
1982–83 Oregon State 20–11 12–6 3rd NIT Quarterfinal
1983–84 Oregon State 22–7 15–3 1st NCAA Division I First Round
1984–85 Oregon State 22–9 12–6 2nd NCAA Division I First Round
1985–86 Oregon State 12–15 8–10 5th
1986–87 Oregon State 19–11 10–8 3rd NIT Second Round
1987–88 Oregon State 20–11 12–6 2nd NCAA Division I First Round
1988–89 Oregon State 22–8 13–5 3rd NCAA Division I First Round
Oregon State: 342–198**** 204–114
Total: 657–382****

      National champion         Postseason invitational champion  
      Conference regular season champion         Conference regular season and conference tournament champion
      Division regular season champion       Division regular season and conference tournament champion
      Conference tournament champion

* 15 wins were forfeited and official record for that season is 3–24
** 1 NCAA Tournament loss was vacated
*** 2 NCAA Tournament wins and 1 loss were vacated
**** Official record with vacated and forfeited wins and losses

See also


  1. ^ a b c Conrad, John (May 17, 2001). "Legendary coach dies". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). p. 1D.
  2. ^ "OSU's Miller enshrined in Hall of Fame". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). wire services. May 4, 1988. p. 1C.
  3. ^ Phi Kappa Psi (1991). Grand Catalogue of the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity (13th ed.). Publishing Concepts, Inc. 1991. pp. 275, 493.
  4. ^ "Great K. U. Passer and All Around Star to Play Here". The Wichita Eagle. August 16, 1942. Retrieved February 8, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  5. ^ "1964-65 Iowa Hawkeyes Roster and Stats". Sports Reference. Retrieved October 17, 2020.
  6. ^ "Kentucky, Jacksonville win". Milwaukee Sentinel. UPI. March 13, 1970.
  7. ^ "New coach to shift 'image' into speed". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). April 9, 1970. p. 1D.
  8. ^ Uhrhammer, Jerry (April 9, 1970). "'Challenge' drew new Beaver coach". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). p. 1D.
  9. ^ "Iowa coach to Bevos". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. April 9, 1970. p. 20.
  10. ^ "Style change seen at OSU". Spokane Daily Chronicle. (Washington). Associated Press. April 9, 1970. p. 37.
  11. ^ "Beavers sign Iowa's Miller". The Bulletin. (Bend, Oregon). UPI. April 9, 1970. p. 6.
  12. ^ Burge, Mike (March 6, 1989). "Fans bid farewell to Miller". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). p. 1A.
  13. ^ Clark, Bob (March 6, 1989). "Ducks never had a chance". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). p. 1A.
  14. ^ Schmitt, Mary (March 12, 1989). "'Cats do their No. 1 number". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). p. 1E.
  15. ^ Schmitt, Mary (March 17, 1989). "OSU draws Aces today for openers". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). p. 1E.
  16. ^ Schmitt, Mary (March 18, 1989). "Beavers take a seat on NCAA sidelines". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). p. 1D.
  17. ^ Litsky, Frank (May 19, 2001). "Ralph Miller, 82, a Hall of Fame Coach". The New York Times. Retrieved December 3, 2010.
  18. ^ a b "Jean Miller, widow of former Oregon State Beavers coach Ralph Miller, dies at 93". Oregon Live. (OSU Athletics). August 13, 2014. Retrieved March 1, 2018.
  19. ^ Welsch, Jeff; Moore, Sherry (2000). A Visit With Ralph Miller. From his home at Black Butte Ranch, Hall of Famer Miller recalls the glory days of OSU basketball Archived July 20, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. A Visit With Ralph Miller -- From his home at Black Butte Ranch, Hall of Famer Miller recalls the glory days of OSU basketball'.
  20. ^ a b Withers, Bud (May 17, 2001). "College basketball loses a true legend". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). (Seattle Times). p. C3.