MINFORD — The Minford Lady Falcons, in the most recent seasons, have hovered around the .500 mark —but basically haven’t been in the top tier of basketball teams in the ultra-competitive Southern Ohio Conference Division II.
Chuck Miller thinks that’s going to change —and it’s why he has undertaken his latest coaching adventure, albeit his initial varsity stint.
Miller, with a quarter-century of basketball coaching experience at either junior high or as a varsity assistant, is taking over the Lady Falcons for the upcoming academic year —with hopes of making Minford soar to new heights.
He has coached in the Minford program prior to his most recent tenure at his alma mater of Oak Hill —where he graduated from in 1989, and spent almost a decade in the Lady Oaks’ program under the direction of the legendary Doug Hale.
Miller, already the boys and girls golf coach at Minford, replaces Shane Davis —and inherits a program going about a sophomore circuit.
How so you ask?
Of the 13 Falcons from last season’s squad, the only senior to graduate was Bella Reffit, as Bree Wilson was a junior — and Davis’ daughter Kynedi an athletic 5-10 sophomore.
The remainder were all freshmen —including interior post players in six-foot four-inch Lindsee Williams and six-foot two-inch Savannah Cantrell.
Although youthful, it’s an athletic Lady Falcon unit —and upside for the future which Miller believes he can maximize.
As of mid-June, the new coach explained there were no current Lady Falcons’ seniors-to-be —as Minford’s offseason summer program concluded on Thursday (June 23) at the Fairland shootout.
The Lady Falcons finished open gyms just recently as this week —going Mondays thru Thursdays inside the Falcons’ Nest at Minford High School.
“This job opened up, it’s a new challenge, so I thought let’s give it a shot,” said Miller, in a recent interview with The Portsmouth Daily Times. “We’ve got good girls athletes. This is not just a basketball team. Several of these girls play soccer or volleyball in the fall or play softball or run track in the spring. It’s a very athletic group I am excited about coaching. It’s all a matter of putting the hard work in and getting better at the things we need to get better at.”
For the Lady Falcons, that includes playing pressure full-court man-to-man defense —and far fewer turnovers on offense.
“Too many turnovers is something we need to improve on. I keep stressing to the girls that every turnover is one less shot attempt and one more possession that you don’t score,” said Miller. “We’re working those fundamentals hard like everybody else does, but it just takes time. And we’ll get there.”
For Miller, he said it all starts on the defensive end, as he played for Hale —who was the successful boys coach at Oak Hill, prior to his longtime and decorated tenure with the Lady Oaks.
“Doug (Hale) practiced with us and he just beat the crap out of us in practice. But he was a great athlete there. What I learned most from Doug was not necessarily the Xs and Os, it was how to run a good practice,” he said. “You can go an hour-and-a-half or whatever you want to go, but focus five to 10 minutes on each drill, don’t waste time, get things done and move on to the next drill. I learned a lot from him.”
Oak Hill basketball, both boys and girls under the tutelage of the legendary Norm Persin and Hale respectively, began booming in the late 1990s for the girls —and later for a decade-and-a-half for the boys.
Hale has 530 career coaching victories and three Division III state runners-up (2004, 2009 and 2011) at Oak Hill, while Persin retired after the 2020-21 season —with 778 career coaching wins, and the Oaks’ Division IV boys state championship in 2009.
“When you have a guy that has 530 career wins and the guy practicing before us every day has almost 800 wins, you’re like a sponge and you’re going to take in what you can,” said Miller. “At Oak Hill, with both Norm (Persin) and Doug, it was defense, defense, defense. Stress man-to-man in-your-face aggressiveness. That’s where it starts, and we want to ratchet that intensity level up here at Minford. I’m very much a man-to-man full-court pressure aggressive defense kind of coach. We want to make teams uncomfortable.”
And, they say that defense wins championships —starting on the inside with the towering Williams and Cantrell, and extending to the speedy perimeter.
Miller made the case that despite the Lady Falcons’ evident youth, their first goal should still be to chase an SOC II title.
It’s all part of the change that he firmly believes can take place.
“We’re still a young basketball team. They were freshmen last year and they are sophomores this year, but they went through the wars once already. We’ve got everything which you need to compete for the SOC (Southern Ohio Conference Division II) championship. We have bigs, we have guards, we have length, and we can guard. There is no reason why we should not be right there in the upper tier of the league this year (2022-23). You have to have your goals high, but they have to be realistic. That is a totally realistic goal for us,” said the coach. “If we progress and do things like we’re supposed to, there’s no reason why we can’t be right there in that hunt for the gold ball (SOC II championship trophy).”
Miller mentioned in closing that Davis’ varsity assistant Brent Daniels and junior varsity coach Jessica Neal plan to remain on his Minford staff.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved