SCHENECTADY — Just before Monday night’s open gym session at Schenectady High School started, John Miller gushed about the enthusiasm shown this offseason by the boys’ basketball program’s prospective players.
“We’re going to be a young team,” Miller said. “Young and hungry.”
That goes for the program’s new head coach, too.
After a lengthy search to replace Eric Loudis, who resigned as Schenectady boys’ basketball head coach in early August, Schenectady athletic director Steve Boynton offered the job Monday to Miller. The 34-year-old accepted right away, pending board approval likely to come in early October.
“This is an opportunity I’m welcoming,” Miller said. “I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time.”
Meanwhile, Miller’s predecessor got back into the game Monday night. In a text message, Lansingburgh athletic director Sean Colfer confirmed Loudis had been approved as that school’s new boys’ basketball head coach. Loudis resigned from his positions as a Schenectady teacher and coach in the second week of August after accepting a teaching job in the Lansingburgh Central School District.
Schenectady competes in the Suburban Council, while Lansingburgh is in the Colonial Council.
Miller, a Rotterdam native, lives in Galway. He graduated in 2001 from Mohonasen High School, where he played three years of varsity basketball, and also competed in baseball and volleyball. Later, Miller graduated from SUNY Cortland and has worked in the Schenectady district for 11 years. He’s currently a physical education teacher at William C. Keane Elementary School.
Basketball-wise, Miller has already been involved with the Schenectady program for a dozen seasons. He was a head coach at the modified level for eight seasons, a JV head coach for three and was Loudis’ varsity assistant in 2016-17 — a season in which the Patriots won 17 games and made their first appearance in the sectional semifinals since 2006.
Once offered it, Miller said taking the varsity job was an easy call for him.
“This is why you’re here,” Miller said. “You want to compete at the highest level.”
With a nod to the expansive history of basketball in the city, an eight-person committee was formed to help with the selection of Schenectady’s new coach. Players from several generations were included in that group, including former Linton star Barry Kramer, who later played in the NBA before becoming a New York State Supreme Court Justice.
“We know this is the premier Schenectady program and that’s some of the reason for why we went to alumni who feel so strongly about this,” Boynton said. “Those guys, they know the history and how important it is. Everyone here wants to see Schenectady have a successful program in boys’ basketball. It’s kind of the pride of Schenectady. . . . The tradition runs so deep.”
Miller said he understands the high expectations for the program. He embraces them.
“Based on the history, based on the people who have been around Schenectady basketball — this is something to be proud to be a part of,” Miller said.
Interest in the job was high. Boynton said seven candidates were interviewed, some with previous experience at the varsity level. Schenectady’s search committee, Boynton said, was confident it made the right choice in selecting Miller despite his lack of experience as a head coach at the varsity level.
There were several reasons for that. Miller had ample success at the JV level, winning 41 games in three seasons. He was viewed as a valuable assistant during this past season’s successful varsity run. Most recently, Miller impressed with how he handled running the program’s offseason workouts despite not knowing if he’d be the Patriots’ next head coach.
“So a lot stuck out about him — and he’s had the experience of working under some hall of fame coaches,” Boynton said of Miller, who started with the Schenectady program when Mark Sausville was its varsity coach. “He’s worked with some of the best.”
Boynton said James Thomas, who helped lead Schenectady to a state title in 1998, was not a candidate. Thomas was hired earlier this year to coach the school’s girls’ basketball team, which the former NBA player remains in place to do.
“James made a commitment to the girls that they’re in this together,” Boynton said. “He felt he should honor that commitment . . . and I think he’s going to turn that program around.”
With a laugh, Boynton also confirmed the city’s most recognizable basketball name had not applied for the job.
“Pat Riley wasn’t one of them,” Boynton said.
Miller said he plans to utilize an up-tempo playing style, a defense-first approach and an offense built around sharing the ball. He said influences from his time working with Loudis and Sausville — now the coach at Scotia-Glenville — will be evident during a rookie season as a varsity head coach he can't wait to start.
“This is why you start,” Miller said. “This is why you get into this.”