|Miles has been off the payroll since 2005. (Andy Atkinson/New York Times)|
By Matt Norlander
He's been fired numerous times but never let go. The man who ranks fourth in wins all-time at any level of collegiate basketball appears to be one of the sport's true active treasures. The New York Times' Greg Bishop wrote a fantastic story worth spreading about Danny Miles, head coach of the NAIA Oregon Tech Owls. He's been there for 41 years, since he was 24. He has 19 grandchildren. He won national NAIA titles in 2004 and 2008. It's a great read. Equal parts feature, biography, timepiece and obituary (except for the fact Miles is still very much alive.)
He had a brother who was murdered in the '70s. He redshirts a majority of his players, who are prohibited from having long hair, any facial hair, and if you've been tattooed? Chances are you aren't making it on to his squad. His players love him for it. Miles is still in touch with so many of the men he coached in the past four decades and most major coaches worth their salt know of him or are, at the very least, acquaintances.
Now, he does all this for free -- and worked off the payroll in sports outside of basketball, too.
Most 66-year-olds collect social security. Miles, while technically retired, still collects basketball victories like stamps. Before this season, Oregon Tech totaled every game Miles ever coached, at different levels of basketball, softball and baseball. The count was 1,816 victories. The walls to his upstairs “man cave” contain letters from famous basketball coaches, among them Mike Krzyzewski, Dean Smith and Bobby Knight, and two presidents, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. His bust resides in three halls of fame.Miles is approaching a thousand wins, and the Owls have already booked their bracket appearance in the NAIA national tournament, which takes place in Point Lookout, Mo., a town that sits on the floor of that state. What's particularly incredible and bittersweet about this team this season: they're continuing on without one of their players.
Bishop writes of how redshirt sophomore Nathan Maddox killed himself 12 days ago, on Feb. 12. There was a four-page note written and The Bible in his lap when he ended his life. It's one of the toughest circumstances Miles has ever gone through. He doesn't even have to be doing this, though. Miles has been off the payroll at Oregon Tech since 2005.
Seven years ago, faced with another round of cuts, Miles “retired” but stayed on as basketball coach. In doing so, he saved two jobs. See, even in retirement, he never left. He still arrives at 8 a.m. each morning, still works deep into the night. He loves the city and loves the school, and now his grandson, a freshman guard, has joined the team.
Still, even Chris Maples, president of Oregon Tech, said, “It’s hard to explain why we’ve been able to hang on to him.”
In reality, most of the true diehards of this game, the coaches who have passion that interrupts their sleep and changes decades of their lives, those men and women can be found at the smaller schools in the tinier, tucked away towns. Miles is one of them. He loves the game so much he even created a formula for player evaluation and performance called the Value Point System. He's been using it for more than 20 years and it's helped him win national championships by way of deciding who's worth a damn on this team and which guy should be starting. The formula is simple: check the link again; it's about halfway down the page.
We're always searching for great stories with the big boys, but this proves again that some of the most interesting subjects are in places that rarely get the attention.