Miller loves challenge of starting new progam at Saint Joseph with Calhoun

West Hartford — His sideline seat is a familiar one.

So is Glen Miller's job, just at a different level than his UConn basketball days.

Miller is back to being the calm beside the stormy Jim Calhoun.

They're in the fight together again, building a Division III basketball program at the University of Saint Joseph from scratch. Calhoun is the head coach, Miller the associate head coach.

They've been a winning combination in the past. Their relationship dates back to when Miller played for Calhoun at Northeastern and then joined Calhoun's first staff at UConn in 1986.

"I played for him and coached with him," Miller said. "He has a passion, obviously, a deep passion for the game and coaching and so do I. You get in the gym, we have a lot in common. Whenever I've been with him, it's been a fun experience.

"We have a lot to talk about, on and off the court. We like being around each other. It's what we've done. It's what he's done for a living and what I've done for a living. It's good to be back working with student-athletes and building relationships and having fun."

When Saint Joseph hired Calhoun to start the men's basketball program, he wanted Miller, his trusty basketball sidekick throughout the years, to join him in the journey. Miller had valuable experience at the Division III level.

A Groton native and Fitch High School graduate, Miller guided the Connecticut College men's basketball program for six seasons, elevating to the program record heights. Under his direction, the Camels reached the Final Four for the first time in 1999, achieved a No. 1 ranking and went 28-1.

Miller welcomed a chance to rejoin Calhoun and signed on in October 2017, agreeing to help assemble a roster and lay the program's foundation. They hit the recruiting trail last winter.

Then Miller decided to stay on as an associate head coach.

"It's a fun little project," he said. "They saw value in me. Jim saw value in me being here with him with that Division III experience. Just having worked with him for all those years. At the end of the day, when I looked at all the things that I could do, this was an opportunity that presented itself.

"I told him I would help him get a team together last year. We weren't a coed school yet, so we just traveled around. I said, 'I'll help recruit a team in here for you and for the program. At the end of those eight month contracts, we'll see if there is anything available or what opportunities.' Nothing real good was there. So I came back another year. Time just rolls by."

Miller is thoroughly enjoying himself.

It sure beats being out of a job.

When Calhoun retired from UConn and Kevin Ollie took over in 2012, Miller remained on the staff as an associate head coach. He was part of the 2014 national championship team.

His relationship with Ollie eventually soured. Ollie fired Miller in March 2017.

Miller was without a job until Calhoun reached out to him.

"At that point in my career, I had worked hard for years and deserved better than what I got," Miller said of his firing. "But, to some degree, it's the nature of the business, unfortunately. A lot of things that you do that are good for the student-athlete aren't important to some people.

"At the end of the day, just being able to get back at any level to coach, that's what I like to do — be a teacher, an educator and help student-athletes achieve some of their goals, on and off the court. Just being in the gym is fun. That's what I've done for my whole career. It's a little more low key here but I'm happy and I'm enjoying myself."

Calhoun is happy that Miller is on his staff again.

Sure, they fight at times, because they're both stubborn Irishmen, Calhoun said.

Calhoun says Miller and Michigan coach John Beilein are the two best X and Os guys that he's ever met. High praise from a Hall of Famer.

"The other thing is, he was there three years at Northeastern and I think 16 years at UConn, so 19 years with me," Calhoun said. "It's funny how we think alike and then he has his favorites and I have my favorites of things that we do. But that always makes a good marriage, because I don't want 'yes' men around."

The school is embracing its new men's basketball team.

The O'Connell Center gym was packed for Thursday's Great Northeast Athletic Conference game against Lasell College. The Blue Jays won their first non-conference game. They're now 11-8 overall, 2-3 in the league.

After the game, Miller headed back to his apartment in nearby Bloomfield.

Miller isn't worried about the future. He knows whenever Calhoun decides to retire again that the USJ head coaching job is his. Calhoun says he's tempted to return next season.

"Whatever happens, happens," Miller said. "I don't want to take myself or being a basketball coach too seriously. I think too many coaches think too much of themselves. Just do your job and enjoy it and see what opportunities come about."

"If I'm enjoying myself here and coach (Calhoun) decides to coach next year and I'm here with him, that will be great. We'll be a year older, a year better and we'll continue to build something here. If there is an opportunity that presents itself, I'll cross the path when it comes. I don't think about it, to be honest with you, anymore."

g.keefe@theday.com

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