LANGSTON — Cheryl Miller has experience on many of the grandest stages in basketball as a player, coach and sideline reporter.
So when she was officially introduced as the new women’s basketball coach at Langston University on Wednesday, no one could expect her to be overwhelmed.
But that’s exactly how Miller felt when she stepped to the podium to address a large number of LU supporters inside C.F. Gayles Fieldhouse.
“I was hoping to be well received, but this was extraordinary,” Miller said. “To have the support of the administrators and the student body, past and present, it was overwhelming.”
Miller’s pedigree includes a Hall of Fame playing career at Southern California, leading the U.S. to a gold medal at the 1984 Olympics, successful coaching stints at her alma mater and in the WNBA, and 17 years as a NBA sideline reporter with TNT.
The initial link connecting Miller to Langston is athletic director Mike Garrett, who had hired Miller in 1993 while serving as athletic director at USC.
When Garrett reached out to Miller about Langston’s coaching vacancy, Miller admits she didn’t know much about the small school in central Oklahoma.
“I’m not going to lie, I had to get on the Internet and look up the history of this university,” Miller said. “Obviously, it’s historically very rich in tradition. Then I started trying to figure out the similarities and trying to connect the dots (for me). Having spent 17 years commentating with TNT, I know the Thunder, and my former associate coach when I was at USC, Fred Williams, coaches in the WNBA with the Tulsa team. And smack dab in the middle, is Langston.
“But it wasn’t until I sat down with (Langston president) Kent Smith and Mike Garrett. What they spoke about was a vision for this university academically, athletically, and its legacy. That’s what I admire. That sold me.”
Miller had been looking to get back into coaching for the past two years, but was struggling to get interviews and offers after being out of coaching since 2000.
“It was very humbling,” Miller said. “I think sometimes we can get into a mindset where we think it should be easy, and it wasn’t. There were a lot of doors that were slammed, but it comes back to what are you going to do in adversity. I don’t need to be at a Division I. I’m right where I need to be, and that’s Langston University.”
Miller expects to bring success to Langston much like she did while coaching at USC (1993-95), where her teams went a combined 42-14, including an Elite Eight appearance. She also previously coached the Phoenix Mercury (1997-2000) of the WNBA, leading the team to the WNBA Finals in 1998.
“Next season we’re talking about championships,” Miller said. “The bar has been set. Not just for (the players), but for my entire staff. We’re going to do this together.”
Miller isn’t taking over a program that’s in the dumps, by any means. The Lions went 20-13 last season, and finished third in the Red River Athletic Conference under former coach David Johnson. The squad is led by forward Lynette Holmes. The senior to-be led NAIA Division I at 26.5 points per game last season.
“I have no idea (what’s it going to be like), but I’m very excited,” Holmes said. “Who doesn’t know about Cheryl Miller? She was the tomboy who dominated her brother in sports. We all want to be like her. She’s one of my role models I looked up to growing up.
“We think that next year we are going to be national champions and conference champions under the direction of Coach Miller.”