Sports Stories

When Tom Miller was named last month to replace John Parks as Sedona Red Rock High School athletic director, there was no mystery regarding how much previous administrative experience he had.

“Zero. None,” he said. “It’s something new for me.

“I really have a strong interest in all sports, to become part of each culture during their season.”

That interest comes not just from an Albany, N.Y., childhood in which everyone played the “sport of the season,” as Miller put it, but also raising three children in Colorado — two sons, Michael and Bo, and a daughter, Emily — who went to college on athletic scholarships.

“I think I can help some programs, and I think I can learn from others,” he said. “There’s a lot of excellence going on here — in volleyball, in basketball, in the track program.”

But Miller is a football man, first and foremost, with almost 40 years of coaching and recruiting experience in the college game.

“I’m worried about whether we get lined up [and] don’t get a punt blocked,” he said. “But I also have got to worry about concessions, who’s taking the money at the ticket counter and who’s going to sing the national anthem now.”

Miller is filling the same role as special teams coordinator for Scorpions head coach John Bradshaw that he performed for seven seasons at the Air Force Academy until the retirement of its most successful coach, Fisher DeBerry, in 2006.

“The head coach got retired,” said Miller, who also coached cornerbacks and outside linebackers, including former three-time Super Bowl winner Chad Hennings, as an original member of DeBerry’s staff. “I was a defensive line coach when I first went there, in the decade of the 1980s.”

After spending four more years reviving a program to the south, Colorado State-Pueblo, Miller retired — but couldn’t stay that way for long.

“I moved to Prescott Valley two years ago,” Miller said. “My wife took a job at Prescott College. She’s a psychologist, with an office in Cottonwood.

“I was doing some other things — substitute teaching, equipment sales, consulting, seminars for recruiting, promotions for high schools — then we moved here, for a better location, in May.”

“Here” is Tissaw Road in the Verde Santa Fe development at the southeastern edge of Cornville, where it wasn’t long before Miller got the itch to coach again.

“My wife wanted me out of the house more,” he laughed. “So she’s accomplished that.

“John Parks, obviously, he’s the go-to guy for everything around here. We stayed here for a camp in the middle of July. Bradshaw said John was stepping down, so why don’t you apply for the job?”

Although Miller would prefer better pay than the $7,000 annual extra-duty contract, he said he is used to the long work weeks — which can regularly reach as many as 80 hours.

“To me, it’s not work,” he said. “I’m a gym rat. I feel like I need a mission, and this is sort of a new mission.”

That mission involves creating a successful culture and a competitive brand at SRRHS, which has struggled to field enough athletes to field competitive teams in sports like cross-country and football.

“I’d just like to see our kids gain the full learning experience from their experiences with athletics,” Miller said. “I always have felt it’s an important part of their education.

“We also have to have high expectations to be competitive at our level. That’s what I expect.”

More students in sports starts with the coaching staff, Miller believes.

“They need us,” he said. “I’m in this business because of the relationships I had with my high school coaches and teammates. That’s part of who I am.”