When Stephanie Miller was offered the head coaching position of GC’s women’s basketball program, she was told up front that the situation was messy.
She took the job anyway.
In the season before Miller took over, the program finished with a record of 6-24, according to the GC Fact Book. The situation was dismal, and Miller described the program as depleted. Players simply didn’t trust one another or the system.
“I inherited some really good people; smart students,” said Miller. “But as far as their understanding of the collegiate basketball system, there was a lack of dedication. They didn’t trust what they were doing.”
Miller got an overall unproductive, negative vibe, and she leapt at the chance to fix it.
“It was intriguing to me, inheriting something from the bottom that has to be built,” she said. “Because it was so broken, I could build it any way I wanted.”
And that’s what she did.
Miller started with recruiting. She went out and found players that fit her style, this school and the competitive level of collegiate basketball.
She sold her vision for the program, and the players bought into it.
Tyra Carver, a senior, said, “I chose to play for Miller because I liked the idea of helping to rebuild and turn the program around.”
And Carver is not the only player to feel that way. Miller’s hand-picked team is composed of players that wanted to fight to get better.
“At the time of my recruitment, Goshen wasn’t a winning program,” said Liz Tecca, a senior. “Coach Miller offered me a chance to help turn it around.
She fully disclosed that the journey would not be without its struggles, but that in the end, if we stuck with her, we’d be able to be the ones who started the change.”
Miller made it clear that when she started, she had a system and a vision.
“The way I attacked it, we were going to prepare like winners well before we win,” she said. “We were going to be disciplined everyday.”
And that’s what had to happen. In her first three seasons as the head coach, Miller averaged about three wins a season. But the 2014-15 season saw a record of 18-3, and the team’s current record is 14-6.
“Coach Miller has turned the women’s basketball program completely around,” said Sophie Sears, a junior. “Without her, we definitely would not be where we are today.”
Sears’ teammate, Tecca, completely agrees. Miller provides a rallying point around which the team strives to play better every single day.
“Her name is all over what we’ve been able to accomplish,” she said. “And I don’t think she gets enough credit for that.”
The players give Miller the credit, but Miller said it was the players that made the program better.
“I just facilitated the opportunity,” she said. “The players themselves have made the magic happen.”
While the program has turned around, Coach Miller’s impact goes beyond the court.
“I invested as much, if not more, in the players’ lives as I did in them as basketball players,” she said. “My players know I will invest in them as human beings. If you have their backs, they’ll have yours.”
Miller’s support has helped countless players, like Sears.
“She takes a huge interest in our development not only as athletes, but as young women,” said Sears. “Her door is always open, and it has been very nice knowing I have that kind of support in my time here at Goshen.”
Tecca said that Miller is there for her players, no matter what.
“If we need her, she’s there. No questions asked,” said Tecca. “Whether that means helping us study into the late hours of the night, or bringing us Panera because we’re sick, this woman has our back.”
Even though Miller doesn’t have any biological kids, Carver said that she treats the players like they are her own.
“She is like a mom to all of us,” said Carver. “She genuinely cares about everyone who comes into her life, and you can see that with how she handles the team.”
Miller said that it’s been quite a journey.
“There’s not a place I’ve worked that has been as welcoming, warm and supportive of what I wanted to do as Goshen,” she said. “People were supportive before we were successful, and that’s rare. They believed in me.”