The Sabre Interview: Jimmy Miller

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Jim Miller played for Virginia’s last Final Four team and was named East Regional MVP.

When you open up the record book for Virginia Basketball you might not see former Cavalier great Jim Miller’s name listed too many times. But make no mistake, “Jimmy” Miller is one of the most beloved Cavalier athletes of all time and one of the best to ever wear the Virginia uniform.

Miller played during a time when Virginia was atop the national polls in college basketball. He chose Virginia over Duke (and first-year head coach Mike Krzyzewski) the year after Ralph Samson helped lead the Hoos to their first Final Four. Miller was highly recruited by a number of National Championship caliber programs at the time. While at Princeton High School in West Virginia, he was a three-year starter for coach Ralph Ball and was a Parade All-American and a consensus “Top 100” prospect nationwide. He was named to the All-State Tournament team three times and was West Virginia’s Player of the Year in 1980-81. Miller averaged 23.5 points and 13.5 rebounds his senior year and led his high school team to the state championship with a 20-6 record.

While Miller never attained a National Championship while playing at Virginia alongside the nation’s three-time player of the year, he was fortunate enough to help Virginia to an unbelievable Final Four run his junior year (1984) – coincidentally the season after Ralph Sampson had left. Miller was the East Regional MVP that year, and most fans can still remember the photo of him cutting down the nets, smiling, with his fist high in the air.

At Virginia, Miller scored 1,218 points and grabbed 474 rebounds. He is second to only Ricky Stokes (134) for most games played as a Cavalier for a career (he’s tied with Sampson with 132). While at UVa, in spite of so many other weapons on the team, Miller was known most for his ability to score. At the time, he was only the 20th Cavalier to amass more than 1,000 points in a career.

“Jimmy was very, very offensive minded,” said Jeff Jones , former Cavalier point guard and head coach. “He was a guy that wasn’t really a small forward and wasn’t really a big forward. He was just a guy that had a scorer’s mentality, great footwork, and a high skill level. He stepped on to the collegiate scene and right away kind of assumed that same mentality he had in high school in terms of being a scorer.”

During Miller’s career, UVa won 97 games and in his first three years helped Virginia to the Sweet 16, Elite 8 and Final Four. The loss of three prominent guards to graduation (Rick Carlisle, Ricky Stokes, and Othell Wilson) was too much for Virginia to overcome his senior year, and the Cavaliers were left out of the NCAA Tournament but they did play in the NIT.

Miller as a high school sophomore hits a late free throw to secure the first of his two state championships.

After his collegiate career, Miller was drafted by the Utah Jazz the same year as the legendary Karl Malone. When the NBA didn’t pan out, Miller took his game overseas to Europe and played in Austria (Landis and Gyr, ’85-’86) and in Spain (Caja de Guadalajara, ’86-’87). After his European tour, Miller returned stateside to play in the Continental Basketball Association (Charleston Gunners) for one more shot at gaining the attention of the NBA. When his playing career was over, Miller first tried his hand at coaching at his high school alma mater (Princeton H.S. in West Virginia). A year later he coached at Randolph. When he realized coaching wasn’t his future, he returned to UVa to work in their Development Office before moving into his current career in investment strategy.

Miller graduated from the Arts and Sciences College at UVa with a B.S. in Psychology and has been living in Charlottesville since 1990. Miller can be seen at most of Virginia’s home games sitting on the baseline cheering on his Hoos. He runs a successful business downtown, Miller Financial Group, which he founded in 2010. Jimmy has a son (Alex, 7) and a daughter (Miranda, 5) with his wife Rachel, whom he married in 2002.

I caught up with Miller this past summer to get his thoughts on a number of topics including his other profession, World Class Magician. Miller has performed magic tricks at a number of functions over the years, including two visits to the White House to entertain Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Jeff Jones remembers those magic tricks from the old UVa days.

“I got to room with Jimmy and his magic tricks on the road. I know the secrets to a couple of those by the way. He got mad at me back then when he found me going through his magic box so I don’t want to let any secrets out now,” Jones said with a laugh.

Special thanks to Jimmy for the amazing amount of time he afforded me to get this interview. Enjoy!

The Sabre Interview

Mike: Let’s start with something unrelated to basketball. What’s your golf handicap and how often do you play?

MILLER: 16. I played yesterday in Roanoke. If I could play once or twice every two weeks, that’s good for me.

Mike: Where do you enjoy playing? Where’s ‘home court’?

MILLER: I’m usually playing on the road, so I don’t have a home court.

Mike: Any funny or interesting moments from the course or range?

MILLER: I can’t think of anything that would be compelling [pauses to think]. So, let me tell you a quick little golf thing, whether it’s relevant or not. Years ago I used to work in the development office at UVa, raising money. My region of the country was the West Coast. As I learned from Barry Parkhill, always take your golf clubs with you when you go out there because you can always find somebody to play golf with. We were playing at the L.A. Country Club. I’m a guest, because you have to be a member. So I’m a guest of a member and they give me a locker that I get to use for the day. But it’s a member’s locker, and it was kind of neat because when I got there they said, “Hey, you can have this locker here.” And it was Ronald Reagan’s locker. That was kind of neat that I got to use Ronald Reagan’s locker for a day. [Thinking] Do I leave a business card in there?

Mike: You performed for two different presidents in the White House, Bill Clinton and George Bush. Which Bush?

Jim Miller with Marshall Brodien at International Brotherhood of Magicians, in New York City in 2001

MILLER: The second one [George W. Bush], and Vice President [Dick] Cheney, at the Inauguration. There were probably 20 of us magicians, of which 15 were world class names. So, if you’re in the world of magic, these guys are considered some of the greatest magicians. I’m friends with one of them, who was kind of the ring leader and organizer. So, he called me and said, “Can you come and do this?” And I said, “Sure.”

During the Inauguration, if you’re familiar, they have three big parties where the President and Vice President show up. They make a couple of comments or remarks and they go to the next venue. At each one of these venues there can be 8,000 people – that’s how large the party is. As magicians we were hired as the entertainment. There were about seven of us at each venue. We did what we call strolling magic, because the venue was so large. Seven of us worked the crowd. Strolling magic is defined as going up and doing 5 or 6 minutes of close-up magic with six or seven people right there, and then the next group or table.

I did what I call the longest card trick in history for Susan Lucci, a soap star. I was doing card trick for her and every 10 seconds somebody was coming up and wanting a photograph with her. I’m thinking, “Hey, I’m in the middle of a card trick”, so I had to stop and then continue.

Mike: Have you entertained any other stars prior to performing at the White House?

MILLER: Mostly what I do now are corporate type events. So, whether it be at a sales meeting or a dinner engagement, I’ve done a variety of audiences like that. But I had never done [anything like] “the President”. For Clinton, for example, I was going to be part of the entertainment for [the press corps]. Every year the White House puts on a holiday party for the White House press corps and their families. That started off to be an intimate gathering of about 500 people. That was going to be on a Monday. I got the call on Saturday saying, “Things have changed, there are going to be about 2,000 people there.”

So, I was a little nervous because it was going to be the President. And the takeaway for me on that, I remember every step, every word, every gesture was choreographed to the point that I fully did not get to enjoy the moment – being present and in the moment. That was a learning experience for me – regardless of what we’re doing, where we’re doing in, when we’re doing it, and for whom you’re doing it – to be present and in the moment, to enjoy the experience. I think I was so consumed that it was the President of the United States. By the way, it was two days after he had been impeached, so it was during that time period when the weight of the world … this is me rambling now, but you hear people talk about how great a speaker he was, and how charismatic he was, and that was true. All of that was true. He walked in that room and he made you feel like you were the only person in that room. And here’s this guy who has the weight of the world on his shoulders. Part of being a great leader and President is being a great communicator.

Mike: You mentioned that it was a world class magician who got you the White House opportunities. Who was that? David Copperfield?

MILLER: His name is Michael Ammar. He as regarded by many, including David Copperfield, as being one of the world’s greatest teachers of magic. He’s been on The Tonight Show and Letterman, but he’s not that household name like a Copperfield or Siegfried and Roy. But this guy consults to those magicians. I know him because I grew up in West Virginia and he grew up just down the road from me. He’s about 10 years older than me. So, there I was as a young kid who had an interest in magic and there was this local magician down the road. Whenever I had the chance, I’d go see him.

Mike: How did you get into practicing magic and how old were you?

Marshall Brodien’s TV Magic Kit, Jim’s first exposure to the world of magic.

MILLER: I was about 11 or 12 years old and I went to a school assembly and saw a magician perform on stage. And I thought, “That’s pretty neat, I want to learn how to do that.” That’s kind of how it started. So, when I was a kid my mom purchased this TV magic set. It was called the Marshall Brodien TV Magic Kit, and it was advertised in a 60-second commercial with this magician dressed up in a tuxedo. She got me that for Christmas. Fast forward to now, as an adult – in the world of magic as they do in any industry, they have these international conventions. There was a convention for magicians called the IBM, the International Brotherhood of Magicians, in New York City in 2001. I went there. And Marshall Brodien was going to be there, this guy who I had his TV Magic set as a kid. I had the opportunity to meet him and got a picture taken with him. Knowing he was going to be there, I brought this picture of me opening his Magic set when I was 11 years old. Now I’ve got a photo of us together holding this old photo. It’s like a then and now of him. He’s a great ambassador in the world of magic.

Mike: How often is it that friends or family ask you to perform?

MILLER: Down in Roanoke yesterday. I walked into the clubhouse of a golf tournament I was playing in and a guy who hadn’t seen me in years [asked me to perform]. As a result of that, there’s a function next week where they’ve reached out to me to see if I can come speak to their group and do magic.

Mike: So are you still doing this professionally?

MILLER: I do a lot of corporate stuff now.

Mike: What degree or degrees do you hold from UVa?

MILLER: I have a B.A. from the College [of Arts and Sciences] in Psychology.

Mike: Did you consider coaching immediately following your pro career? And how did you get involved with the financial services industry?

Jim during his time with the CBA’s Charleston Gunners.

MILLER: Yeah. I was lucky enough to play for four years professionally after college. I was drafted by the Utah Jazz, the same year Karl Malone came into the League. I was cut, went to Europe and played, came back and tried out with the Celtics the following year. Cut. Went back to Europe and played in Spain. Came back to the United States and still felt like if I had the right chance, right setting, right place at the right time, I could hook up with an [NBA] team. I felt like I needed to be visible. The longer one played in Europe, the less that was going to become a reality. And then I played in the CBA, the Continental Basketball Association, for a couple of years. Then, when I realized – a very difficult transitional period in my life, “What do I do next?” – let me get into coaching. Everybody else goes into coaching, it seems like. So I coached at my high school for a year as I was trying to figure it out. That coincided with a knee injury. I had knee surgery, so I was still training and volunteering at my high school. But if the right situation came up, I was going to go back to Europe. I thought I would end my playing career in Europe. The long and short of all of that is, it turned out that I’m not going to be playing anymore. So I ended up coaching at Randolph Macon College for a guy named Hal Nunnally, for a year. Then I realized I wanted to spread my wings. I’m ready to get out of the world of basketball. What else is out there?

That’s how I ended up relocating back to Charlottesville, because I knew people here. I got a job in sales with a local company and then transitioned from there to the University. I took Barry [Parkhill’s] old position in Central Development when he took the position with the Alumni Association. So I took his old position in the University’s first billion dollar capital campaign they were involved with. It was during those years I met a bunch of wonderful people with great life experiences and life stories. As the first billion dollar capital campaign came to a close, that’s when I started to do a self-reassessment. How can I be a more productive person in society? I was doing my magic all along the way, and that’s when I gravitated to the financial service industry. It took me a while to figure out that path. I guess it shows you don’t have to have all of those letters after you name. You don’t have to have a business degree. I’m not saying those don’t help, it’s a wonderful foundation for knowledge. I kind of had to gather it the old fashioned way – trial and error and learning along the way.

Mike: In some cases, it helps to know the right people as well?

MILLER: I’ve been very fortunate, knowing people who can open a door. I still believe you have to be prepared when those opportunities present themselves. When the door opens, you have to be prepared to walk through it.

Mike: Can you discuss how you were recruited and who worked hardest to get you? It came down to UVa and Duke in the end?

MILLER: First, let me say the recruiting process was a fascinating experience and is a fascinating experience for any 17-18-year-old kid going through it for the first time. And growing up in a small town in Princeton, West Virginia, I didn’t have a lot of experience or exposure to all that other stuff out there. I thought “Everyone is so nice, sincere and genuine during the recruiting process to take time out to come all the way down here and see me play. Wow, that’s really great.” That was an amazing experience for my mother and I. My mother and father were divorced, so it was just the two of us in the household at the time. As you are probably familiar with – and it’s so different now than it was then – but [today] recruiting goes beyond recruiting the kid, you have to recruit the parents, you’ve got to recruit the coach, the AAU coach, the handlers and whatever else they got now [laughing]. Back then they didn’t have call-waiting, so it was the phone ringing off the hook every morning, noon and night.

Miller chose Virginia over a number of schools, including Duke during Coach K’s first year as head coach.

Where I grew up geographically, I was exposed to the ACC. In my heart I knew I wanted to play in the Atlantic Coast Conference if I had the opportunity. That’s where the best basketball players in the world were playing. [thinking] “Wow, that would be neat.” I didn’t know how that would happen, I just played every day. I started to be recruited by the time I was a sophomore in high school. Knowing that I wanted to play in the ACC kind of narrowed my list. I was getting letters and calls from schools all over the country. Back then you were allowed six official visits. So, the six visits for me were Ohio State, Michigan State … I visited West Virginia because of the pressure of living in the state. I visited, of course, Virginia. I visited Wake Forest unofficially. I visited Duke, and Tennessee, and South Carolina, unofficially. The South Carolina visit came about because Bill Foster was the head coach at Duke, and my junior year that entire staff went to South Carolina. So they continued the recruiting process and I knew them. Then a guy by the name of Mike Krzyzewski came in to Duke to replace him, so I was recruited by Coach K his first year.

That being said, my final two choices came down to Virginia and Duke. Virginia, for the obvious reasons; Terry Holland was here, it was a great academic institution, and socially it was great. They also had the Player of the Year in Ralph Sampson. They were nationally ranked, one or two in the country. Part of the recruiting enticement from Terry Holland back then was, “You come to Virginia, you’re going to play on national TV this many times next year. You’re going to go to San Diego. You’re going to go to Hawaii. You’re going to go to Japan.” And Duke – they were rebuilding. They had this guy, Coach K, and it was his first year.

But Coach K was phenomenal in the recruiting process. We were talking about communication earlier, and he is one of the best – if not the best – communicator to his players. And he did it better than anybody during that recruiting process. That’s why my choices came down to Virginia and Duke. Duke was starting over, but that’s how good Coach K was. Looking back now, he’s doing the same thing with kids he’s recruiting [today]. He sat in my living room and had a blank sheet of paper and asked me, “What can you see yourself doing outside of basketball?” At the time I had an interest in radio and television. I thought I’ll pursue a career in that. I expressed some other interests, and he took note of that. And then he created two columns and he said, “You come to Duke and you’re going to be ACC Rookie of the Year. I’m going to help you be ACC Rookie of the Year. And by the time you’re a junior, you’re going to make the Olympic team. I’m going to have something to do with that. And then I’m going to help you be a first round Draft pick by the time you’re a senior. I only teach man to man defense here and that’s what they play in the NBA. Those are your goals on the court. And off the court, academically, we’re going to have you do this. Help get you a part time job in the summer with Turner [Broadcasting].” No other coach sat down in my living room and wrote those out. Talking to a 17-18-year-old kid and telling him in three years you’re going to be playing on the Olympic team – I mean, that’s every kid’s dream. He was great. Another thing Coach K would do was ask my mom a question about nothing related to basketball and he’d look to me to see my response to her – what kind of respect do I have for my mother. Do the eyes roll or do I turn and listen intently to what she has to say? He picked up on all that kind of stuff. I think that helped in the type of kid he chose to recruit.

Mike: Outside of the Ivy League, there’s not much better than Duke and Virginia academically, so your final two choices seemed solid regardless of play on the court.

MILLER: It was all part of it. Virginia is great, academically and socially. And Duke as well.

Mike: A lot of similarities, academically, socially, integrity of the institution …

MILLER: A lot of similarities, absolutely. And they do a good job integrating the student-athletes with the rest. I’ve visited some places and talked to some schools where athletes are over here, contained. Not the case at Virginia and certainly not the case at Duke.

Mike: Recruiting is far more challenging now with kids wanting to play right away. Coach Tony Bennett has endured a number of transfers, some because of lack of playing time their first two years. Can you address this?

As a high school senior, Miller played in the Derby Classic for the U.S. All Stars with Chris Mullen.

MILLER: Kids need to have an appreciation for being part of a team. It happens everywhere. They’re continuing to recruit and bringing in people in your spot and you’re like, “Geez, what’s going on?” You have to look at it as, “OK, these people can make me better.” When I talk to young people, everybody wants to play in the pros. But not everyone is going to play in the pros. To create those years of memorable experiences, you don’t appreciate it until years later.

For example, when I look back on our era of Virginia Basketball, it was the greatest era of Virginia Basketball. And going through it at the time I thought this is the way it’s going to be every year. Right before I came in, it was Jeff Lamp, Lee Raker and those guys. And we continued to transition and had great guard play with Othell Wilson and Ricky Stokes, and Jeff Jones . And then Ralph was the overlap between those two sets of teams. I just assumed this was the way it was going to be forever. I can tell you that being years removed, the experiences of playing in those big games, winning those big games, and the camaraderie and fellowship with the guys on the team – of experiencing that success together, and failures – that’s what you’re going to remember.

I know it’s hard. When you come in from your high school, you’re the guy, the stud, the man on the team. Well now you’ve got 12-15 of those guys. I remember thinking, maybe it was my junior year, they were recruiting Tom Sheehey out of Rochester, New York, who was 6’9″ and looked like a man. I mean, he had to shave three times a day kind of thing. I thought, “That’s who I’m going up against? Why are they? … That’s a guy I’m going to have to go up against!” That was a guy I had to go head to head against every day in practice. And he was good, talented. In ways it made me better. But I don’t remember that so much now. I remember thinking that at the time. But that junior year we ended up going to the Final Four. I think the kids miss that.

Mike: Social media certainly can’t help with the patience for today’s young players. They’re constantly bombarded via Facebook or Twitter on how they should be playing more, or starting. This new landscape must make it difficult on today’s college coaches to recruit and retain athletes.

MILLER: It’s tough. It’s a different era today than it was 20 years ago, without a doubt. The whole coaching profession and recruiting process is so different now than it was. Their jobs are incredibly difficult.

Mike: Speaking of staff, it appears Tony Bennett has hit a home run with the hiring of his staff. Jason Williford was an intelligent choice with his reach in the state of Virginia for recruiting and ties to UVa. And he’s got a lot of experience and a familiar face in Ron Sanchez as, and a wealth of knowledge from his main assistant, former Liberty head coach Ritchie McKay. But more importantly, he’s attracted a staff with integrity and similar ideals.

MILLER: I heard Bennett speak a year ago at a breakfast. He talked about humility, passion, servanthood, unity and thankfulness. First and foremost, it speaks to who they are, their makeup, what they’re philosophical beliefs are. Those guys are quality individuals.

Mike: You had quite a staff around you at Virginia during your playing years; Terry Holland, Jim Larranaga, Dave Odom, and also Craig Littlepage for a short period, correct?

MILLER: Craig Littlepage recruited me. This goes back to Virginia-Duke [recruitment]. I was the last major college prospect in the country to sign a national letter of intent on the last day, which was May 15th. I couldn’t make up my mind. These [coaches] were so nice. I didn’t know how to say no to these people. It went back to “Who was the first coach to see me play?” Who was the first coach to go up into this gym in this little town in the middle of the summer my sophomore year? Somebody came up to me and said, “You see that guy in the stands?” … I mean, we’re in the middle of nowhere. We’re in Athens, West Virginia … He said, “That’s the assistant from Virginia.” Craig Littlepage was the first to physically come see me play. That helped in the decision-making process.

Mike: And Seth Greenberg was added to the staff as well.

MILLER: He was a part time assistant, grad assistant. He was at Pitt and recruiting me when I was in high school. He was an assistant at Pitt. I think the head coach’s name was a guy named Roy Chipman, if I’m not mistaken. I was never going to go to Pitt. But Seth, he’s a wheeler and dealer [snaps fingers], he can come in and make an impression. Chipman got fired and Seth was thinking about getting out of the profession. He called Terry Holland, and [Holland] said, ‘Listen, I don’t have a spot for you. But come down here, be on my staff, you can stay in the game and I’ll help you get a job the next year.’ That year he came, and you know the story. We went to the Final Four in ’84. I think Seth ended up going out west.

Mike: It seems the Holland and Bennett staffs are quite similar in terms of putting defense first, keeping the program’s level of integrity up, and adherence to academics.

MILLER: I would agree with that. Those guys were family oriented. Disciplinarians. Defense was a big focus of our game plan. We were teams that were always well-prepared. Within the conference you kind of beat up on each other because you know each other so well. If you go back and look at our record outside of the conference, it was a pretty great winning percentage.

I think they did such a thorough job of preparing us, the scouting reports for these opposing teams. When we played Louisville they had the McCray brothers, Rodney and Scooter McCray. They had great athletes, jumping out of the gym. We played them here and beat them. We played them down there and beat them. I think it’s just because it was a reflection of the type of team we were and how prepared we were.

There are a lot of similarities between that staff, and their belief and the way they create that family environment, to the guys on the staff now. From everything I’ve read, and I’ve gotten to know some of those coaches a little bit, they create that really special family environment where every guy on the team is important and feels like they’re part of the process. And they like each other. I think that’s huge when you talk about success. I was interviewed by someone earlier this week with regard to Ralph and looking at those teams. Not everybody always gets along, but by and large we liked each other on the court and off the court. That’s really important. It’s a testament to the coaches who are out there recruiting. You’re not always having to recruit four high school All-Americans and trying to get them to work together, which is a skill in itself. But I think these guys are like, “We’ve got these players and let’s go find talent that will complement what we’ve got – and these guys like each other.” I think it’s going to be a real good chemistry for success.

Mike: Interesting you mention the chemistry of players, which can sometimes be as important as raw talent. Because of various summer tournaments and all-star games, Virginia’s top three incoming freshmen have spent time together and become close friends before ever starting a semester at UVa. It seems that they’ve already gotten a jump start on “team chemistry.”

MILLER: That’s huge, Mike. That’s a great point. And that’s going to pay huge dividends in a real quick way.

Mike: You were fortunate enough to play in a number of Virginia’s greatest games during your collegiate career. While you probably have a number of favorites, which was your most memorable win?

Virginia defeated both Utah and Houston in Tokyo Japan, without the services of Ralph (out with the flu).

MILLER: Most memorable win? There were a lot of great victories. We beat Georgetown in the game of the decade with Patrick [Ewing] and Ralph. But the most significant or memorable win would be Virginia beating Indiana in the East Regional Championship in 1984 in Atlanta to go to the Final Four.

Mike: What was your most uncomfortable loss?

MILLER: I think the easy answer is the … Can I give you two? They’re for two different reasons. I think the easy answer is Virginia’s loss to Chaminade in Hawaii. Right? They’re not supposed to beat us, and they did. And now it’s regarded as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, upsets in college basketball history.

Mike: Virginia had quite a stretch of games leading up to that loss.

MILLER: In 10 days, we won the game of the decade and then flew to Japan [to face] Houston and Utah. But Ralph did not play because he was sick. Then on the way home, we stop in Hawaii and have to play this team called Chaminade that nobody’s heard of. In a period of 10 days, we won the game of the decade and lost the game of the century.

So, that’s one. I can’t help but think, my first year we were playing Carolina in the ACC Championship. It’s really the game that brought about the shot clock, because Carolina took the air out of the ball in the second half for like 12 or 14 minutes they stalled. And they’ve got [Sam] Perkins, [James] Worthy, [Michael] Jordan, Matt Dougherty and Jimmy Black – I think were their starting five. We had Ralph, and it was 1 and 2 in the country playing on Sunday, national TV, for the ACC Championship. They ended up winning by two points. Carolina was criticized for taking the air out of the ball with all of those great players. People wanted to see a great game. I felt like we could have and should have won that game. We would have won the ACC Championship. And the only time Virginia has ever done that, as you know, is in 1976.

There are other games, to answer your question. As I think about it – losing to NC State a few years later in the ACC Championship, which allowed them to get into the NCAA Tournament – and then they turn around and beat us again in the West Regional championship to go to the Final Four. Those two losses were games we should have won, too.

Mike: One thing that obviously hurt you in the ACC Championship was the ACC’s implementation of an experimental 3-point arc that was insanely short, not even above the key. Did the 3-point line factor in Virginia’s shot at winning the ACC Championship and possibly the National Title?

MILLER: Let me answer that by saying that we probably didn’t take advantage of it like other teams took advantage of it against us. So, it was there, but I don’t think we structured offensive patterns to take advantage of the 3-point line. If it came in the flow of our offense, then that happened. But, remember, we’ve still got Ralph inside. So it’s like having everything kind of go through him. Conversely, NC State used that to their advantage and had those guys. I say Ralph, but [NC State figured] anybody scoring in the interior for two, and we’ll match you basket for basket and we’ll get one every time – because they were shooting 3’s. That turned out to be the case with NC State. They used it to their advantage and I don’t think we necessarily took advantage of it.

Mike: You contracted mononucleosis early in your UVa career. How much time did you miss as a result?

Jim Miller is second only to Ricky Stokes for most games played in a career at UVa.

MILLER: You go back and look into the history books at games played in a career and Ricky Stokes is first on that list, I believe. Ricky Stokes played in 134 games if I’m not mistaken. Second on that list is yours truly with 132 games [tied with Ralph Sampson]. I missed two games, so I could have tied that record. The first game that I missed was my first college game, and that was because of mononucleosis. We played in the Hall of Fame Tip-off Classic against BYU up in Springfield, Massachusetts. I had mono during the pre-season conditioning. So I missed the last part of practice before that first game. But I was back to practicing a little bit. Part of the fear is that you get the enlarged spleen, if you get hit there with a knee there you could get a ruptured spleen. They still had to be guarded with that. I was dressed and on the bench, but it was a coach’s decision not to play me.

And then, fast forward to my junior year, we used to play in a tournament over Thanksgiving here [in Charlottesville]. So we’re getting ready to play and we’re out in warm-ups – it was a freak thing. Somebody shot the ball – you know how you stand underneath to get a rebound or something – and it the ball came through in such a way that my eye did not blink and the ball hit me flush in the face. While we were still shooting around, Doug Newburg comes up and goes, “Dude, your eye is bleeding.” So I went over to Doc McCue and Ethan Saliba and they took me back in the locker room and turned out all of the lights, put some dye and used a little light – I scratched my cornea. They’re like, “You can’t play.” So I came back out to warm-ups with this patch over my eye. It was for 24 hours I needed to wear that thing. So I missed that game.

Mike: Did contracting mono drain you or affect your play in any way?

MILLER: It was not an issue, really. My first ACC game against Duke I had 26 points.

Mike: If you had to name one thing that separated UVa from a National Title, what was it? Virginia seemed to have enough talent to win it all. Was it more a matter of luck than talent?

MILLER: Obviously it takes talent and skill, but you’re spot on. It also takes a little luck. You’ve got to be a little lucky. If you talk to Terry Holland, he would argue that either [of my] freshman and sophomore years – those two teams ’81-’82 or ’82-’83 – were the two most talented teams he ever had. With Jeff Jones one year running point – and you’ve got Othell Wilson – great guard play. Of course you’ve got the big guy inside. We were pretty good. We just needed a little luck to help us. Luck can come in a lot of different ways. NC State not hitting just one of those 3’s changes everything. Had we had a little luck, the story would be different.

Mike: What’s the best team during your UVa career, and why?

MILLER: Either our ’81-’82 team or ’82-’83 team. I’m inclined to say our ’81-’82 team, just because I thought I was one year better. I had one more year of experience. Ralph was a senior. And our guards, Othell and Ricky.

Mike: If different, which team had the best chance to win the national title?

MILLER: I think Ralph’s senior year, which would have been my sophomore year, ’82-’83. The expectations were clearly to go to the Final Four. Our goal that year was to win a National Championship. We felt that throughout the year – the pressure, the tension that comes with that – all the way from the administration, down to the coaching staff, down to the players.

Mike: Virginia went into the 1984 NCAA Tournament a No. 7 seed. How did it feel making the Final Four, particularly the year after Ralph had left, with no level of expectation to go that deep into the tournament?

Miller skies over Hakeem Olajuwan during the 1984 Final Four game.

MILLER: A moment ago we were talking about the year before, Ralph’s there and the expectations, the weight and the tension – we would end practices many times with fights between the players because of the intensity. That was all driven from the top down, because the expectation was to win. And so that creates a certain restriction, in some cases.

So that year [’83-’84], we didn’t even know if we were going to get into the NCAA Tournament. We felt like we would have to advance to the final in the ACC Tournament, or win the whole daggone thing to get a bid. We lost in the first round to Wake Forest. So we came home early, and we didn’t even know if we were going to go or not. I’ll never forget Selection Sunday. We weren’t gathered as a team. Some of us were in the weight room working out. Ricky Stokes poked his head into the weight room – there were only five or six of us there at the time – and said, “Hey, did you hear the news?” … “What?”… “We got in! We got in!” So there were high-fives and everybody was jumping around. So we got in and we see the pairings. Our first round of games are going to be up in the Meadowlands of New York. We hadn’t spent a lot of time in New York – “Oh, that’s going to be fun.” I remember they took the team to see a Broadway play the night before, Brighton Beach Memoirs, with Matthew Broderick. I’ll never forget it, because I’d never been to a Broadway Play before.

I remember sitting in the hotel room – Tim Mullen was my roommate – and I open up the program and said, “Tim, look. All we have to do is beat Iona. And then if we beat Arkansas, all we have to do is beat Syracuse” – and I had North Carolina beating Indiana, and it turned out Indiana beat North Carolina. But I said, “We beat Syracuse and North Carolina and we go to the Final Four.” I said that in such a joking manner because the expectations were so low. We played with a carefree attitude. I think there’s a lot to be learned from that when you look at the year before, and the weight of the world, to the next year and expectations were really low. We weren’t as talented a team, but the guys all liked each other and played together as a team. We made magical things happen. It was one of the highlights and experiences of my life in terms of basketball.

Mike: What led to the great run to the Final Four? Were there ingredients on that team that led to better overall chemistry? As you just mentioned, the pressure wasn’t on the team to win like it was the previous year. Was it the lower expectations that allowed the players to embrace each other and achieve more?

MILLER: I think a combination of a lot of those things. We truly liked each other both on and off the court, and with that comes a certain level of trust. So, trusting each other in certain situations through adversity – when you’re really being tested. If you go back to the middle of that year, we got really tested internally of how we responded to the adversity. I think we lost four conference games in a row during that January/February stint. And when you lose four games in a row, everybody in the locker room can place blame or point fingers, and it can create a poison environment.

So, either one or two things can happen. You can break and fall apart, or you can rally and come together. That’s part of the trust I was talking about. We’ve been there. The core of that unit had experienced success in the years before. We knew what going to the NCAA Tournament was like. We knew what playing in ACC Championship games was like. We knew what playing in big games was like. And that all got tested. It was not normal for us. We hadn’t experienced that before. We rallied around that. Plus, we got a little lucky – having the ball go through the hoop at the right time.

Mike: Ralph Sampson would never commit to returning to the team the following year until after recruiting was over for that class. How much of an impact do you feel this had on Holland’s ability to recruit more talent around him? Did you ever think, “What if Ralph doesn’t stick around?”

MILLER: That was really not an issue. I can see that being an issue more today than it was then. I knew Ralph was going to be there my first year. I never thought, “Oh, he’s not going to be there my second year.” And I only played with him for two years. I don’t remember that being an issue, and I had never heard that from others. Again, I was the last college prospect in the country to sign a letter of intent. Guys were committing early. I committed on the last day, but that wasn’t because Ralph decided to stay at Virginia. I knew Ralph was going to be at Virginia. I didn’t think after his second year what that would mean.

Mike: There’s a lot of negative recruiting today. Was there any of that when you were being recruited? North Carolina or whomever could have easily said, “Why do you want to go to Virginia? Ralph’s going to go the NBA next year and you’ll play for a struggling team until they get another big man.”

MILLER: That’s a great question. And I don’t remember anybody using that. I think it’s just so different today than it was then. I don’t remember one time anybody saying anything negative about [Virginia]. And Virginia didn’t use negative recruiting against any of the other schools I was looking at.

Mike: During the Sampson era it was assumed UVa gambled more on defense because of Ralph’s presence in the middle. If that was true, was it harder to play defense in ’84 as opposed to ’83 with Ralph?

MILLER: I really see it when I watch games now. You watch our guards then – Othell Wilson was really, really good. Those guys could use their speed and quickness and do what we called “run and jump.” Once you’ve got the guy to turn his back, that off guy was coming from behind, and they’d turn him back around into it. We could really be aggressive out on the perimeter. Even if they beat that, we had arguably the greatest college player ever to play the game, to keep [opponents] from getting to the rim. You’d have to pull up. So if we did get beat, it allowed us the ability to still retreat and recover.

It was different, like in ’84, where we couldn’t be perhaps as wide open like that defensively. We were still very sound defensive teams, with help defense. What it probably did more of for us, with Sampson, was creating turnovers for easy scoring opportunities. We probably didn’t get as many transition baskets without him there.

Mike: Can you talk about how your role on the team evolved over time, particularly while playing with Ralph and the contrast of playing without him?

MILLER: With him on the team, my first couple of years, I was like the first guy off the bench. I guess I was the sixth man. With [Ralph] in there, and our great guard play – I keep saying that, because they made me a better player and made me look good at times – I was probably a slashing type player. I had good fundamentals – back to the basket – good footwork. We had good penetration. Othell could break down a defense – they collapse – and kick it to someone like myself or anyone else for an open jumper or a slashing, one or two quick dribble move to the basket. And with Ralph, obviously, so much focus and attention was on him that created or freed up opportunities for someone like myself.

With his absence, I noticed it the most my senior year. It was less to do with Ralph as it was the guards that I played with [the previous years], were gone. Othell Wilson, Ricky Stokes, and Rick Carlisle had all gradated the year before. So we were playing my senior year with freshmen guards who didn’t have that same skill set. As a result, it was more difficult for me because I wasn’t getting the ball in a position where I could do something with it – like I had the first three years. I’d get the ball, but now I’d have to create my shot. And that wasn’t my game – not at that time.

Mike: That’s a tough break for your senior year to have lost Ralph one year and then you lose three outstanding guards the next.

1983-84 Virginia team after defeating Washington in the Cabrillo Classic in San Diego, CA.

MILLER: To illustrate [the importance of the guards], when we would play in our blue-orange intrasquad scrimmage games, Ralph would be on one team and Othell Wilson would be the point guard on the other team. Coach Holland would always put those two guys on opposite teams. Nine times out of 10, Othell’s teams would always win. And why is that? Because good guard play can dictate tempo. They’ve got the ball in their hands and they can control that.

Mike: You were drafted by the Utah Jazz and then played professionally overseas. Can you discuss your time abroad and what that did for you in terms of maturity and experiences with learning new cultures?

MILLER: Let me be very clear, Mike. It’s easily one of the most valuable experiences of my life, aside from basketball. Learning the culture, the way of life, custom, the language. I lived in Vienna, Austria for a year. I learned to speak German. I live in Spain, right outside of Madrid. So I learned Spanish. I had some Spanish background. I still have friends to this day from my experiences of playing abroad. I had the opportunity to travel all over the different countries. At that time there were [still] Eastern-Bloc countries – Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia. I played in Budapest. I’ve played in Kokta, Finland in the middle of December when it’s 20 degrees below zero. Italy – I was on the Island of Malta, which is a little island in the middle of the Mediterranean off the coast of Sicily (Italy) – I was there five days after the United States bombed Libya in ’86. All these experiences helped give me a greater appreciation for people of all walks of life, and a better understanding of people in the world.

We here – I say we, in this country – we think we do it this way, and this is the best way. And if you go to these countries and you see that it’s done a different way, you say, “Aw, that’s wrong.” It’s not wrong, it’s just different. And what it’s done, it gave me a certain foundation where you can put me in any environment now and I won’t break – you know, I’ll survive – because you get tested over there when you can’t speak the language. I was over there by myself. So, the little things we take for granted here, at the end of your day being able to share – and you can appreciate this I’m sure, from your experience – but being able to share the high’s and the low’s together, to do that with our wives now, you know, “How was your day?” Didn’t have that, didn’t have anybody to communicate with. You get tested on a daily basis. I worked through that. And it’s like you get over a hump and all of the sudden you start thinking in that language. My dreams started being in that language, and you knew you were really immersed – phenomenal experience, though. I encourage all young people today, whenever I have a chance to talk to them, that if they have the opportunity to travel abroad I would tell them to take advantage of that.

Mike: I was in Europe at about the same time as you, from ’86-’88, while in the Air Force. I was stationed in Belgium. And just days before flying over there Libya had just been bombed in retaliation for terrorist bombings in Germany that killed American soldiers. More terrorist bombings followed throughout Europe, including one at the American Embassy in Brussels. There was a lot of tension at the time. We were on high alert status for almost two years and told not to go off base much, to stay in groups, and to avoid specific places. As an American athlete in a highly tense environment, did you feel any of this tension or have any specific rules or instructions for avoiding trouble?

MILLER: Hearing you describe those experiences, you know the climate and what it was to be an American [in Europe then]. The setting at that particular time [1985-86] was very tense being an American abroad. Terrorism was big then as TWA and Pan Am Flights were a target of hijacks and US Embassies were being bombed, etcetera. So, just being an American abroad at that time created the heightened sense of self and awareness.

I gave the experience of going to Malta. I was listening to Armed Forces Radio and getting the developments and what was going on – I was advised as an American not to go. At the end of the day, I went, because I ended up traveling on a Yugoslavian airline, out of Yugoslavia. This happened in April and our season had just ended and there was another team courting me, recruiting me to play with them for the following year, ‘Come to Malta and play with my team for a week. Just meet the guys.’ So, the way I looked at it was, this is going to be an opportunity for me to see another part of the world that I’ll probably never get chance to again. So I flew on a Yugoslavian airline with a group of Yugoslavians and Austrians. So, in essence, I felt I was going incognito. It wasn’t a Pan Am or TWA flight that was being targeted then. I showed them my blue passport when I stepped off and they looked at me like I was crazy, because we just bombed Libya.

To back up, in December right around the holidays, the airport in Vienna was bombed the same day the airport in Rome was bombed. I flew in and out of the Vienna airport the day before and the day after that happened. [Immediately following the attacks] we were actually playing in a tournament in London called the Crystal Palace Tournament. So we had all of these countries playing in this basketball tournament. And Maccabi, Tel Aviv was a big basketball team there – a very good team. The security [was tight] because of the teams and all that was going on. I’ll never forget [it]. We’re getting ready for the jump ball at the beginning of the game and all of the sudden you hear sounds like gun shots going off – my first reaction was gun shots. It was fireworks in the arena – people just shooting bottle rockets. [It was] the passion for the tournament and the game, that’s how crazy it was.

So, we’re in Vienna for one day, those attacks happen, and then when we’re flying out the next day. I’ll never forget arriving at the airport and seeing bullet holes – they still had bullet holes and hadn’t had a chance to clean it up.

I’ll share another experience that’s kind of neat, because I don’t know too many people I know that get to say that they’ve done this. We were playing in London in [the previously mentioned] tournament and we had a game at 10 o’clock that morning. Right after the game we hop on the bus and drive to the airport and fly to Germany, and bus two hours to play another game that evening. The point is, I played in two games on the same day in two different countries.

Mike: Do you keep up with any former teammates? Any true friendships emerge?

Jim and Ralph have remained friends since their time together at UVa.

MILLER: There are a handful of guys off of those teams. I’m still in contact with Ralph. I went out to Kansas City when he was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame back in November of last year. The week before Thanksgiving I went out there to support him for that. Rick Carlisle. Tim Mullen is here locally. I stay in touch with Dan Merrifield. Ricky Stokes. Othell. Kenton Edelin. And there are a handful of those other guys I got to know, who I didn’t play with. Jeff Lamp I stay in touch with – one of the greatest Virginia players of all time, without a doubt. Marc Iavaroni. I’m sure I’m leaving somebody out. Most of those guys, we were friends and have remained friends for all these years.

Mike: Do you think there’s more cohesion with athletes than you might otherwise get from being a regular student?

MILLER: Yeah, when you think about it, you spend a lot of your time together. Not only on the court – the rehab and the training in the offseason. If you’re there getting treatment, you’re there two hours before practice, treatment after practice. And how long is a season, you know? We’re in preseason conditioning right when schools starts. And if you’re lucky enough, you’re playing at the end of March and the first week of April. That’s a long time. And then everybody’s back here in the summer. You spend a lot of time when those guys.

Mike: Players today get very little break from training throughout the year. Someone told me it’s about two or three weeks off. During your time at UVa, how many weeks a year do you think were dedicated to basketball?

MILLER: I think the down time was right after the season ended, maybe right up until the end of school. You’d come back in the summer. In the summers, everybody congregated back here in June. And, you know, guys would have summer jobs, but by the afternoon you were over at U-Hall training – working out, eating dinner. Some people were going to summer school.

Mike: One of the greatest coaches in UVa athletics history was Terry Holland. You were fortunate enough to be coached by him. Can you offer your impression of him as a coach, mentor and friend?

MILLER: Without a doubt, the epitome of what the University of Virginia stands for and represents – in a facilitator, an administrator, and educator. Thomas Jefferson had a vision … and here are the people who are going to reflect and represent the University of Virginia. A picture of Terry Holland would be right there. He was very instrumental in growth and development for me, personally and professionally. It’s not just me. He’s touched a lot of people’s lives.

He was a mentor. He was a sounding board for me. If I had to create an adviser committee – I have an advisory committee for what we do here. These are trusted people who aren’t in the financial services industry that are in my network as we make changes. Terry Holland was that kind of figure for me when I was transitioning into coaching, and when I was getting out of coaching. He was the sounding board in guidance. We’re great friends, and in many ways [he’s] like a father figure to me to this day. Both he and his wife and family have been great supporters for me. So it’s easy for me to say what he’s meant to this University. But even on a national level, he’s been great for the game of college basketball and college administrators around the country. He’s great.

Mike: Can you tell me something that people would be surprised to learn about Holland?

MILLER: There might be a large part of your audience that would know this, but there might be younger followers that wouldn’t know this. He did his undergraduate at Davidson and led the nation his senior year in field goal shooting percentage [63.1]. But his aspiration was to go to Law School. His coach at Davidson was Lefty Driesell. And Lefty said [paraphrasing], “Before you go to Law School, I need an assistant coach. I need you help me for this year.” And so, Terry thought about it and he said, “OK, I’ll help you out this year.” And he never got out of coaching. And obviously, the rest we know.

Mike: Was Holland your position coach?

MILLER: As the head coach he would oversee everything, so he could help with guard play or help with big men. I think when we split up it was Littlepage and then Odom.

Mike: Can you talk about Holland’s strengths and weaknesses, if any, and his overall ability to develop talent?

MILLER: One of the things he was great at was preparation – making us prepare. So that going into every game we had scouted the other team. We knew what they were going to do fairly well. He did a great job of preparing us. One of the challenges he probably had was how to – again, time period is totally different than it is today – but even 30-something years later we’re still talking about [Sampson] is arguably one of the – if not the – top two or three greatest college players ever to play. The challenge for him was managing a team with that individual. I mean, don’t lose sight of how great a job he did in recruiting Ralph Sampson – to get Ralph to come here. There were a lot of different factors that go into that. Ralph could have gone anywhere in the country. He came here. And a key element of that was because of the coach that was in that seat. It’s easy to say, “Oh he stayed at home …” There have been a lot of good players in the state to have gone to our neighboring schools, right? So, then he’s here to manage a team and the expectations around a guy who is unique, who is different than the rest of us – and trying to make it one unit and not treating him like he was different. It’s hard.

Mike: With a player of that skill set and magnitude on a national level, do you think it was a challenge to know when to get Ralph the ball and when to keep the other players involved in the game?

MILLER: We maybe tried to use Ralph like we used all of the other players on the team who were on the court at the same time, maybe to a fault. You’ve got 7-foot-4 in there. Maybe you do stuff differently. Maybe you make him “Wilt Chamberlain” and score 25-26 points a game. He certainly could have. That’s part of the challenge. Fast forward 30 years and there have been a lot of great players, but none as great as what that guy could do at the college level.

Mike: I see you interact often with ACC officials at games played at JPJ Arena. It’s safe to assume you have a number of ACC officials as friends, so maybe this is a tough question for you to avoid bias. Which ACC official do you feel is the most consistent in terms of accuracy and fairness during games?

Jim and Rachel Miller on the baseline at JPJ Arena, supporting the Hoos.

MILLER: You know who I like. I like Brian Kersey. A really good official is one that flies under the radar screen. You don’t even know that they’re out there. And Brian does a great job of demonstrating fairness and one that doesn’t seem to be intertwined with controversy. It says something about not being noticed or recognized sometimes.

Mike: I’ll put you on the spot. Which officials have been the most frustrating for you? I checked the stats on the one friend of yours who has officiated a lot of our games, and he’s not at the top of the list …

MILLER: Hey, he pisses me off sometimes. I was frustrated on a couple of different occasions [this past season]. One was with our game and one was without our game. The one without our game was an NC State game. Tom Gugliotta and Chris Corchiani got ejected. They were sitting right behind the scorer’s table. Who was the ref? … Karl Hess. Hess tossed them. Now I wasn’t there, I don’t know what was said. But it takes a lot – it would take a lot for a fan to say something to be ejected. And it wasn’t like they were gesticulating and demonstrative. I didn’t see any of that. So you wonder what was going on there for those two guys to get tossed. But it’s hard, because you don’t know what was said.

The second was at a game here [against UNC], and I don’t know the official’s name. It was in a game where Mike Scott had to go to the bench early in the second half because he picked up his third and he sat out many minutes. Fouls two, three and four were touch. [Foul number] two was questionable, because there’s contact on every play and they called that. Zeller’s coming down the lane and [Scott] checks him, and that happens every time down the floor. I don’t even think it was on the ball – foul two. Foul three happens early in the second half and he has to go out. He sits out until about the 12 minute mark. He’s in for 30 seconds and picks up number four on the baseline where I sit, and he had to go and sit back down on the bench. I blew a fuse on that call. I don’t normally, but on that one I snapped.

But here’s my point, though. The officials know this. If Mike Scott is your best player on that team, and officials whether they admit it or not, know who the two or three players are on each team. If you’re doing Virginia’s game, for Virginia to really have a chance to win, Mike Scott is a critical player. If he commits a foul, it’s a foul. I don’t care who it is. If they foul, they foul. But Mike Scott, and every other of those players that referees identify, gets five good fouls. If he fouls, he fouls. But they’ve got to be five good fouls, not a ticky-tack off the ball forearm on the guy or a loose ball rebound with no clear, distinct advantage. If it’s questionable, you can eat your whistle. That’s my philosophy. And in that game, that official didn’t make it happen – he failed. I went back and looked at how many ACC games he had done – he hadn’t done that many. I don’t think he did anymore after that. It’s kind of a shame they put [an inexperienced official] in that big game.

Mike: In your opinion, whether consciously or unconsciously, do ACC officials have Duke-Carolina bias? As a long time follower of UVa athletics, I would argue that those teams, particularly their coaches, get a little more latitude based on their history.

MILLER: Teams that are really good have earned a certain level of respect. Why are they good? They’ve won more games than you have, or the next team. And so if you want to overcome that – if you want to be one of the teams that gets the call – then you’ve got to beat ’em, just beat ’em. I know it’s easier said than done. But if you want to be like Duke, or be like Carolina, then you gotta beat ’em. And you know you’re not going to get breaks, you’ve got to create your breaks. You’ve got to create your opportunities. And you have to overcome the adversity once it comes and smacks you in the face.

Mike: Can you give your honest opinion of coach Tony Bennett? Is he the “right” man for the job? If so, why?

MILLER: I think he’s done a great job, first and foremost, of creating a culture – a healthy environment – to produce winning. And he’s assembled a staff around him that philosophically is aligned with him. And it starts with stuff off the court that translates then into a skill set of players of players that are on the court. I love that environment he’s creating. And with everything I’ve seen, it will continue to build off of that. I like the culture he’s creating.

Mike: What’s your take on his two predecessors, Pete Gillen and Dave Leitao? Why could they not get it done? What were their shortcomings? Were they just not the right fit for UVa?

MILLER: I wasn’t at the practices day in and day out, so you don’t know how a guy conducts a practice. It’s hard to speak to that. I have sat down on a number of Bennett’s practices over the time, so I can speak to a little bit about how he organizes a practice and how he runs and controls a practice. The culture that is being created under Bennett is going to be one that I think is going to breed success over a period of time, if people can allow enough time for it to happen. In this day and age, the time frames are just so much tighter because of the pressure and expectation to win early.

For those other guys, I got to know Pete and I liked Pete for all of the reasons that everybody does. But I didn’t get a chance to sit in on his practices and see how they were run. And Leitao was a very close to the vest guy. I didn’t feel like he opened up his doors to the Virginia family – I’m talking about the former people who played here, and I’m local. I didn’t get to know him, and as a result I didn’t really get to watch any practices. I don’t know the culture that was being created behind the scenes.

Mike: How would you size up Virginia’s chances for 2012-13? How can UVa overcome the loss of experienced players like Assane Sene and Mike Scott?

MILLER: I’m optimistic and bright on the future of Virginia Basketball because of Tony Bennett and his staff. I’m optimistic that they will continue to build a culture and an environment that talks about team first, and use that. We can look on paper and look at the obvious holes – lack of size inside next year. But how they build these other pieces around it compensate for that. I’m optimistic that Coach Bennett and his staff can do that so that it allows them to compete. And hopefully in more games than not, they’re going to be able to compete – and it’s going to start on the defensive end. If they can keep those scores lower, giving up fewer points, then they’re going to allow themselves to stay in games which will allow them a chance to win.

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