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Ola staff brings wealth of experience to boys' basketball team

By Doug Gorman

dgorman@news-daily.com

When Ola head coach Curt Miller was looking to fill out his coaching staff, he didn't have to search far.

He didn't even need to speed hours going over resumes or conducting interviews.

The two experienced assistants were right in his own backyard, and they both had years of head coaching experience.

One was even in his own family.

So Miller , who also serves as the athletic director at Ola, did the most logical thing he could, he reached out and hired his father Chuck Miller, and Buck Hunter.

They join another longtime assistant Lee Whitaker who has been with Curt from the beginning.

The staff brings more than 60 years of coaching experience to the floor.

Chuck spent close to four decades coaching both boys and girls basketball, most of those years at Henry County.

Hunter began his coaching career around the AAU circuit before landing at Eagle's Landing Christian.

Chuck spent the last few years of his career in education serving as athletic director at Henry County before retiring in June.

Hunter, who has a job outside of coaching and teaching, ended his association at ELCA after the school elected to go with a fulltime educator to serve as its head coach.

That left the door open for both men to join the Ola staff.

"I knew dad was retiring, and we had tossed it around that he would come coach with me. He brings so much experience, it was a no-brainer. Dad was already on board, and come March or April, I found out that ELCA was going in another direction, so I shot Buck an e-mail and told him would love to have him join my staff."

Curt has been coaching the least amount of time, about 10 years.

He decided join the family business after graduating from Georgia Southern in the late 1990s.

He began his coaching career at Henry Middle School, then landed his first high school job at Dutchtown before getting the boys basketball job and athletic director's position at Ola.

Curt has always leaned on his father for coaching advice.

"Obviously, now that he's on my staff, we talk everyday, but even when I was at Henry Middle or Dutchtown, I would call him after every practice to get advice or ask questions. I asked questions all the time, especially with the AD role. Anytime you go into a new job, you are never prepared for it, and I knew that going in to the AD job especially."

Chuck and Hunter are not just casual observers. They are an important part of practices and games.

"I have two guys on the bench that have been coaching longer then I have, that is a good deal," Curt said.

Hunter oversees the Mustangs' junior varsity program and helps the varsity get ready for games and also helps coach the team's 43-press, and important part of the team's game plan.

The former ELCA coach is happy to offer his experience.

"I was kind of caught off guard with what happened at ELCA, but it's kind of funny how things work out because just the year before we bought a house out here in Ola, and I kind of trying to figure out what the purpose of all this was. My wife was all for this, and now that we are part of the Ola community, it is really cool just to be part of these kids' lives," Hunter said.

Hunter first meet the Millers when he was coaching AAU ball and Curt was playing for his dad at Henry County back in the mid 1990s. Both men later gave Hunter's ELCA teams a chance to play against their teams when many squads wouldn't schedule games against the private school.

"We have developed a great friendship and mutual respect for each other and we just love basketball," Hunter said about the relationship.

The older Miller displays the same passion for teaching the game that he had when he first broke into the business nearly four decades ago. While at Henry County, Miller led both the boys and girls teams to the state tournament in 1982 just to name one of his many achievements.

He was a highly-respected AD, earning several athletic director's honors and chairing several committees over the years.

Now, the long-time coach can often be seen spending time just watching basketball games with his good friend, former Stockbridge girls coach George Eanes.

He was content just to spend time with his family that now includes two grandchildren.

Still, only his son could have brought him out of retirement and back into the gym.

"He is a better coach now then I was at this stage of my career," Chuck said "I just like being around him. He played for me, and he still loved me. We have always had a good relationship. I wouldn't be coaching basketball if it weren't for him, because, I wasn't seeking to coach anywhere else. I didn't want to do it with anybody else. Doing it with him is just fun."

Things have come full circle for Chuck. He coached or taught many of the parents of Ola players when they were students at Henry County.

Curt knows how fortunate he is to have to experienced basketball coaches sitting next to him at games.

He points to the Jones County game as a perfect example. It is one of the three games Ola has won this year,

"Buck and dad both came up with things we needed to change," Curt said. "If it wasn't for the changes they came up with, I am not sure we would have won that game. For them to see something that I might not have picked up on, and for us to be able to make those change and win the game, that says a lot, I know these players are getting coached up."

The Mustangs are going through some growing pains this year. A year go, Ola got hot at the right time and made the state tournament for the first time in school history despite an 11-17 record,

Now, they are trying to adjust to life without last year's top scorers Tim Mason, and Troy Swanson, both now playing in college.

But Ola has a chance to do so with a game Friday at home against Locust Grove.

The Mustangs will then play in two tournaments, including the Henry County Christmas event, now named for their assistant coach The Chuck Miller Classic. They will also play in the Walnut Grove Holiday Tournament after Christmas.

Ola's coaching staff is working with a group of players loaded with heart, but short on experience Tre McBride, Justin Gant, Alex Ta, D.J. Beard and Brad Blount were the only returning players from last year state tournament team.

"We still have a chance to get it together, we have only played four region games, so it's early yet," Curt said. "You know how basketball is, anything can happen come tournament time."