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Miller set for second tour of duty at Shadyside

• Lady Tigers coming off OVAC?Class 2A title, but must replace Bonar and Holenka

November 22, 2013
By RICK THORP - Times Leader Sports Writer ( , Times Leader

Jim Miller had his future all planned out.

''My wife and I were going to retire at the end of May,'' he said. ''I'd just gotten in the door from the end of my teaching career and sat down at the table, sat back and looked outside.

''I looked outside and thought, 'This is going to be awesome.'''

Article Photos

PICTURED IS the 2013-14 Shadyside girls basketball team. Front row, from left, are managers Brinley Steen, Sarah Teasdale, Madisyn Stewart, Julie Hendershot, Holly Butler and Olivia Carpenter. Second row, from left, are Lyndsey Dunn, Samantha Rosser, Samantha Habig, Toni Andes, Kenzie Fielding, Logen Johnson and Sarah Schofield. Back row, from left, are Brittnee Edgar, Haley Shook, Jonna Eneix, assistant coach Stu Rynkievich, head coach Jim Miller, Lexi Archer, Layne Hendershot and Brittany Ramsay.

Then, Miller's phone rang.

''It was (John Triveri),'' Miller recalled. ''He told me Tina (Yates) had stepped down and he wanted to know if I was interested in coming back.''

Miller certainly was interested, but what did his wife, Cheri, think?

''We had talked for years that wouldn't it be nice just to coach and not be working full time?,'' Miller said. ''Then my wife said, 'Well, here's your chance.'

''When she said that, I knew it was pretty much a done deal.''

Miller returns to the LTs bench following a nine-year hiatus. He had a short stint as the St. John Central boys' head coach a few seasons ago before health issues forced him to step away.

''Now, I feel better than I've ever felt and I'm excited to get back into it.''

Miller had an ultra-successful first tenure with the program, guiding the program to back-to-back Ohio Division IV Final Four appearances in 2002 and 2003.

Miller's team's set the bar high and Yates' teams picked up where Miller's left off.

Shadyside made another Final Four run in 2011 in addition to numerous deep runs in the postseason.

Last year's squad, led by Karli Bonar and Hayley Holenka, was another strong group. Even though he wasn't coaching them, Miller had plenty of opportunities to watch the team as the school's assistant athletic director.

''I thought Tina did a nice job with those kids under some really tough conditions,'' Miller said. ''The schedule they played was brutal and she developed those kids well and used them to their full potential.

''The kids that graduated (from last year's 17-8 team) - Karli Bonar, Hayley Holenka and Kristen Fijalkowski - were quality kids. They're 'A' types and are what LTs are all about.''

Bonar, Ohio's all-time 3-point field goal leader, is off to a fine start coming off the bench at the University of Findlay. Holenka is playing at Slippery Rock.

Miller's goal this go-round is to maintain the tradition.

''One of the things you strive for is perfection and to build the best program you can build,'' Miller said. ''Everyone takes pride in that program and that's where the expectations come from.

''We're in a state now where this probably the most important season the LTs have had to this point; even the state years and all the others.

Miller is calling this season - The Bridge.

''We're plugging in the players we have and telling them you're putting your stamp on the Lady Tigers program.''

When Miller was rehired the fact he had recently retired as a teacher meant he had to be away from the program for 60 days. So, new assistant coach Stu Rynkievich handled the summer activities.

''It was the most-bizarre situation I'd ever been in,'' Miller recalled. ''With Stu on board we were able to do that.

''They entrusted him with the program. He kept in touch with me.''

For Miller, it was tough mentally.

''It was unbearable,'' Miller said. ''It was like having a brand new car and not being able to drive it. It was so difficult. But knowing Stu had them gave me a peace about it.''

Trebor Doneson is also aiding Miller as a volunteer assistant.

''He's our academic advisor and head of scouting,'' Miller explained. ''He's in the school so he's kind of my liaison there.''

Rynkievich, a disciple of legendary John Marshall High School girls' coach Stan Blankenship, was pleased with the progress the players made during the offseason.

Senior Toni Andes, junior Kenzie Fielding and sophomore Logan Johnson are three of the top returning players.

''They've been around winning and they understand the LT way,'' Miller said. ''With that in mind, they have given us a bridge to be able to bring a lot of things in.''

Johnson will be asked to play a large role on varsity this season.

The team's other junior is Samantha Habig.

Other juniors ready to make their mark are Sarah Schofield, Samantha Rosser, Lindsey Dunn and Lexi Archer.

Freshman eyeing playing time are Brittanie Ramsey, Brittnee Edgar, Hayley Shook, Jonna Eneix and Layne Hendershot.

The Lady Tigers open the season Monday at Steubenville. A rugged schedule also includes the likes of Wheeling Central twice and a trip to West Virginia Class AAA power University.

''Our schedule top to bottom is pretty competitive and every night we'll have to show up to play,'' Miller said. ''We're looking to be competitive every night.



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