TALLADEGA -- The impact coach Charles F. (Chuck) Miller made on the lives of his family, as well as his former players, will live on forever.
The Hall of Fame basketball coach died Thursday evening. He was 88. Funeral services will be Monday at 11 a.m. at First Baptist Church in Talladega.
A graduate of Oxford High School and Jacksonville State University, Miller coached for 32 years -- 26 of them at Talladega High School. He is a member of the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the Jacksonville State University Athletic Hall of Fame, the Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame and the Snead State College Hall of Fame.
His son, Chucky Miller, has coached for more than 20 years at Talladega, where the gym bears the elder Miller’s name.
Miller was revered as one of the best basketball coaches in the state, but he was also known a genuine and caring man who loved his family.
“He was the best father that a person would want to have,” Chucky Miller said. “With me being the oldest, I was with him all the time. You have to figure from the time I was born until I was 18 years old, I was right there with him.
“I guarantee I was with my father more than anyone until I was 18. I was at practice all the time, all the games, all the bus trips. It was just a wonderful time. Later on life, getting to compete against him while he was still coaching … we were still together a lot.”
The elder Miller won 704 games during his coaching career. He won 16 county championships and made 11 appearances in the state tournament.
Miller’s grandson didn’t get a chance to see him coach but loved to hear his coaching stories.
Trey Miller thought the world of his grandfather. He said everything he learned about basketball was because of his grandfather.
“He was my best friend and my hero,” Trey Miller said. “My brother, Ryan, and I meant the world to granddaddy. Granddaddy meant the world to Ryan and I.
“We were just talking a while ago that when we were real young, granddaddy would do basketball camps after he retired. We went to the Alabama School for the Deaf. I remember granddaddy calling on me in front of all the kids to do the two-ball dribble drill. I went in between my legs and behind my back. I went over everything that granddaddy taught me. Those kids would light up.
“Granddaddy called on Ryan to spin the basketball on his finger because Ryan could really spin the basketball.
“He had a way of making me and Ryan feel special and did that many times.”
Miller retired from Talladega in 1988, but he was able to return back to the arena that he designed and was named after him 12 years later when Chucky Miller was named the Tigers head coach. Coming back to Talladega was special for Miller.
“When my dad took the job at Talladega, granddaddy had some health problems,” Trey Miller recalls. “We came back to Talladega in 2000. Granddaddy said that brought energy to his life and caused him to keep living.
“Every day, he would pick me and Ryan up from school when daddy would be practicing. Every day, we would go to the rec center, and that’s where I became a basketball player. He worked with me and my brother and everybody else that was there.
“The only reason that I am in the 1,000 point club, started on my dad’s basketball team and made it to the state tournament is because of granddaddy.”
Over the past year, at least 10 people a day would ask about his father, Chucky Miller said. The elder Miller made a difference in the lives of several of his former players, including Robert Burdette.
Burdette, who is now coaching in Mississippi, spent 30 years coaching in Alabama, winning four state championships.
Burdette said Miller was more than just a coach to him.
“I spent a lot of time around him -- not just on the basketball court, but socially as well,” Burdette said. “Words can’t say the impact that he has had on me.
“I wouldn’t have gone into coaching if it wasn’t for him. That’s the kind of impact that he not only had on me, but so many others. He was a father figure. ... I went into coaching because of him, and it won’t be the same without him. He was a mentor, a friend, a father figure. He checked all the boxes of what a coach is supposed to be. I hope through my career I could check those same boxes for somebody else.”
Robin Beverly played freshman football for Miller in 1965. Beverly also played basketball for three seasons under Miller. Beverly also went into coaching and spent several years as Miller’s assistant at Talladega.
Beverly said Miller was tough on his players, but they knew he only wanted to get the best out of them.
“He was a player’s coach,” Beverly said. “He was tough, you had to learn how to take his chastising … but he had that ability to make his players better than what they thought they could be. He was just an incredible coach and an incredible person. He really was.”
Miller was ahead of his time on the basketball court. He used a high tempo and pressing defense, and his style of play still is successful today.
Chucky Miller was able to win his 700th career game with his father in attendance in 2017. He broke his father’s record of 704 wins later in the season. Chucky Miller said his father was still giving him helpful advice when he was able to come to the game.
“He was just so proud of me,” Chucky Miller said. “He was still coaching to me. ... He would be like, ‘No. 24 Is standing here, and he needs to be a 1 foot over.’”
Chucky Miller and Burdette run the system they played in high school with their teams now.
“The 3-point shot came in the last year he was coaching,” Chucky Miller said of his father. “When I played and when all his other teams played, we shot the 3-point shot when it was still worth two points. We shot it because it opened the middle. If you had a good shooter, he said we are going to get you shots.
“Many of his shooters were shooting what would have been 3-pointers today.”
Chucky Miller said his dad was put on this earth to do good for other people. The outpouring of love and memories that have been shared over the past few days prove he succeeded with his mission.