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Curt Miller’s past brightened his path to Sun

Curt Miller is the new head coach of the Connecticut Sun, and has never been the type of person to rest on his laurels. Miller’s path to get to the WNBA is one that made him into the passionate and dedicated coach he is today.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Uncasville, CT -- Curt Miller might be new to the WNBA, but is a well-recognized name throughout women's basketball. Miller is now one of 12 head coaches in the WNBA, after being named head coach of the Connecticut Sun on Thursday.

Miller spent time in the 1990s as an assistant coach at Cleveland State, Syracuse, and Colorado State, before landing his first head coaching job at Bowling Green in 2001. Miller coached the Falcons for 11 seasons, where he won over 250 games and earned five NCAA Tournament berths.

"The thing that I'm most proud about from my career is the sustained success we had at Bowling Green," Miller said. "Not only did we rebuild the program, but we won eight straight championships. I'm most proud that we didn't build a team, a one-hit wonder, but we really established a culture and a program."

During what was his final season at Bowling Green, Miller suffered a mild stroke on the sideline during a game in January of 2012. Miller says that "wake up call" helped him prioritize getting healthy.

"I was never off the clock," Miller said. "For about six or seven years, I slept in my walk-in closet because I didn't want to disrupt people when I'd wake up in the middle of the night to watch more film. I do sleep in a bed again, and try to make time for myself to step away from the game.

I also try to eat better and get exercise. I've learned through years that I'm wired the way most coaches are wired: it's a 24/7 job. I'm blessed to still have this opportunity to be healthy and coaching."

Miller left Bowling Green in 2012 to take the head coaching position at Indiana University, where he turned the 6-win team he took over into a 21-win team during his two years there. Miller resigned from Indiana citing health concerns after two seasons.

"As I ventured into Indiana, with only one recruiting class that was able to play for me there, we quickly turned that program around," Miller said. With a second great recruiting class on its way, and future verbal commitments, we really truly believe we were setting the team up to continue that same success."

Miller made the jump into the WNBA last season as an assistant with the Los Angeles Sparks on Brian Agler's staff. Even though Miller was only on his staff for the 2015 season, Agler says the things Miller learned will definitely help him at Connecticut.

"That experience of understanding the dynamics of the WNBA that he learned last year is really going pay dividends," Agler said. "I want to see Curt do well. I feel responsible for helping him get into the WNBA, and I'm glad he's getting his opportunity.

"I think the people here are going to be really happy with what they see on the floor. He's well respected in our game, and I think it's going to carry over very well into the professional game."

Miller agrees with Agler, and thanks him for giving him the opportunity to be on his staff.

"I can't express how important that year (in the WNBA) was," Miller said. "If I jumped in here from Indiana or Bowling Green, I don't think I'd have any idea what I learned in the year in the WNBA. It's invaluable, and will go a long way in helping me."

Agler was not the only person Miller has learned from. Miller says he always looked up to UConn Head Coach Geno Auriemma, and is glad he able to call him a mentor. Auriemma says he expects Miller's coaching style to translate to the next level.

"I just think he deals with players really well," Auriemma said. "He gets them to commit to a certain style of play, and it makes players better which is is going to help him in the WNBA. He makes players better. He's a great teacher, and I think that is going to be a good match between him and the younger players on the roster."

The Sun valued both Agler's and Auriemma's opinion, and are very happy with whom they chose to be only the franchise's third head coach since the team moved to Connecticut in 2003.

"Curt stood out because of his past success, and what he was willing to do to engage this team and put them on the fast-track to success," Sun Vice President and General Manager Chris Sienko said. "He has made it clear to us that we are not in rebuilding mode; we are in winning mode.

"Based on the conversations I have had with coaches and experts around the country, we feel we are in very good hands."

This "winning mode" is a tall task for a first time WNBA head coach. Miller says he is excited to take on the task of getting this team to the playoffs in 2016, and does not think it will put any additional pressure on him in his first season.

"You always want to make the playoffs, but I don't think the external pressure would be any more than the pressure I would put on myself," Miller said. "I believe there are the pieces in place for us to make a run. I think last year when you look at it, (the Sun) had great win streaks, but they also had extended losing streaks.

"So if you can find some consistency, and shorten those losing streaks, I think it can go a long way to having the season you need to have to make the playoffs."