By Doug Gorman
Like father, like son, or a chip off the old block.
Either one of the famous phrases is a perfect descriptions for Dutchtown High School's new boys' basketball coach Curt Miller.
Miller is the son of former Henry County boys and girls basketball coach Chuck Miller, who still serves as the school's athletic director.
"I can't think of a time when I didn't want to coach," said Curt.
While many of his friends were spending their summers on the baseball diamond, Curt was honing his basketball skills and preparing for a future career in coaching by attending his father's basketball camps.
From an early age, the younger Miller had a great work ethic, as he practically lived in the gym.
"I guess I was your typical gym rat," said Curt. "Dad would drop me off before school started and I would shoot baskets. I'd shower at school and then go to my first class."
"I'm not surprised he decided to go into this line of work," said Chuck. "I'm proud of him, not for the coach I know he is going to become, but for the young man he already is. He has always worked hard."
Curt's mother Debbie knew there was no way he was going to be talked out of following in his father's footsteps.
"I remember asking him one time if he hadn't rather go into a computer field, but I've always known he was born to coach," she said. "He has been around the gym since he was in a stroller."
Curt, who graduated from Henry County High School in 1996, admits it wasn't always easy playing for his father.
"There were one or two teammates when I first started playing in high school who thought I was only on the team because of my dad. That was tough because I didn't have to worry about that when I played in middle school."
Curt silenced his critics and proved worthy of his spot on the team by beating those skeptics in games of one-on-one.
Miller went on to earn a scholarship to Reinhardt College and played for the national junior college championship. He graduated from Georgia Southern where he met his future wife Kristen, a former college volleyball player.
While still in college, Curt served as a community coach for Southeast Bulloch in Statesboro.
Although Curt is just beginning his high school head coaching career, he's not new to the Henry County school system. After graduating from college, Curt entered the family business as head coach at Henry County Middle School.
He calls his time at the middle school a great training ground.
"I learned a great deal from coaching there," he said. "I had great support."
The new Dutchtown coach is going into his first season with an open mind. With only freshmen and sophomores on the roster, the Bulldogs are going to be young and inexperienced. They are also going to be playing in a tough 13-team league which includes county rivals Eagle's Landing, Henry County, Luella and Stockbridge.
Griffin, one of the early favorites to contend for the Class AAAA state tournament is also in the region.
Miller is happy the Bulldogs are jumping into their inaugural season by playing a region slate.
"I've always wanted to build a team from the ground up," he said. "That is going to be tremendous challenge, but I'm excited. We might take our lumps early, but by the time this first group are juniors and seniors, this team is going to be special."
Miller ahs hired Cabral Huff as his assistant coach, and he also plans on working closely with Dutchtown Middle School coach Thomas McLuren.
"Our program is going to be built from guys who learn the fundamentals of the game at the middle school level," he said. "I think it's important to work with the middle schools."
Curt says one of the joys he gets from coaching is working with inexperienced players.
"It's exciting to teach them something they don't know or can't do, and then watching them execute it in a game," Curt said.
The Bulldogs' head coach also knows his father is just a phone call away.
"Our coaching philosophies are very similar," Curt said. "We spend a lot of time talking basketball and sharing ideas. When Dad and I are together, we start talking basketball and our wives go and do their thing."
The veteran coach and father however, won't get in the way.
"This is his team," said Chuck. "I will always be there to give advice, but I will keep my distance. Curt is going to do fine, because he cares about is kids, and he is willing to work hard."
The former Henry County coach who combined for 855 wins as both a boys and girls coach in a 36-year-coach career, is quick to point out his son was tabbed as the Dutchtown coach based on his own merits.
"I was a little worried when I found out he was interviewing for the job," he said. "I didn't know if I might hurt his chances. I have been here so long, I didn't know if there might be somebody I made mad."
Chuck looks forward to watching his son tip off his career. He admits he will be pulling for Dutchtown to win most of the time.
However, win Dutchtown comes to Henry County for a game next February, the Warhawks' athletic director won't change his loyalties.
"Curt will be on his own that night," he said.
Actually, Chuck might be on his own. Curt's mother Debbie will be sitting right behind the Dutchtown bench.
"I have already told Chuck who I will be cheering for that night. I will be wearing the red and black of Dutchtown, and cheering for my son," she said. "If Chuck were still coaching, it might be different, but since isn't coaching anymore, my heart will be with Dutchtown.
Chuck is okay with his wife's decision.
"My wife has been my biggest supporter over the years," he said. "I'm the luckiest man in the world, it's not easy being married to a coach. She has been by my side for years, but she's a mother too, and she is so proud of Curt."