After an exhaustive search, featuring as many as 12 candidates, Eric Tillman announced Wednesday who he chose to succeed Kent Austin as the Riders' head coach. It's none other than our Offensive Coordinator Ken Miller.
I realized that despite the fact that Miller has been with the team for a year now I still knew very little about him. So I decided to do a little research, and I must admit I was quite surprised by what I found. Apparently, Ken Miller is a biology professor who is famous for his opposition of creationism and even wrote a book on how belief in God and evolution are not mutually exclusive. Wow! All this and a football coach, pretty amazing! At least until you consider that both Ken and Miller are common names and that this is probably a different Ken Miller than I was looking for... or is it? Everyone always marveled at the intelligence of Kent Austin, but I have to think that even he couldn't compete intellectually with our new fearless leader, football coach by day/accomplished biologist by night, Ken Miller!
Seriously though, here's what I do know about Dr. Miller. He is 66 years old, was once a high school biology teacher and has his Masters degree in education. In terms of football, he coached high school and university football in the states from the mid 60s to the 90s. (I wonder what it was like to coach football in black and white). In 2002, he arrived in the CFL where he served as an assistant coach for the Argos for 5 years. Last year, he joined the Riders as our offensive coordinator. He has been a part of 2 Grey Cup winning teams; '04 with the Argos and '07 with the Riders. He enjoys long walks on the beach, the musical stylings of Tito Puente and "Choose Your Own Adventure" books (okay these last 3 may not be true, but I figured this story was pretty dry so I took some creative liberties).
Normally, an offensive coordinator in Saskatchewan managing to avoid the media for an entire season would be the equivalent of the Toronto Maple Leafs playing hockey in May - it's theoretically possible, but no one actually expects it. But Ken Miller managed to achieve a level of anonymity during the 2007 season not seen from a Roughrider since the days when Colin Scrivener was responsible for generating a push up the middle. This makes me cautiously optimistic about Miller as head coach. Personally, I think he was not given enough credit for his work with the offense last year, plus he's worked alongside Kent Austin for the past 4 seasons and I'm a strong believer in osmosis. Besides, if you're looking for guys to show you how to run a team, you could do a lot worse than Kent Austin (see Popp, Jim and Maciocia, Danny).
Once news of Miller's promotion broke, coaches from around the league were quick to phone with their congratulations. In a Rider Prophet exclusive, my sources were able to obtain a transcript of the messages those coaches left on Dr. Miller's machine:
"Ken, this is Danny Maciocia. I think we can all agree that I know a thing or two about coaching, so I'd like to give you some hints. The key to being a successful coach is a good poker face. Never let your facial expressions convey to the other team what you're really thinking. No matter what happens - good or bad - you must take it all in stride. That's right, in stride... just like Milt Stegall was in full stride that time that Kevin Glenn... sorry, I'm just getting a little choked up here... that time Kevin Glenn hit him from their own 10 yard line on the *sob* last play... (unintelligible weeping)"
"Hi Ken? Wally Buono here. Congratulations on the new job, I just have a few words of advice as you begin your CFL coaching career. First, the glasses don't play well on TV, get rid of them. Just squint, it makes people think you're really concentrating. Second, remember these words of advice: "If there's no film of the hit, you must acquit!" If you happen to find out later that video evidence actually does exist that contradicts your position... just pretend it doesn't exist and deny, deny, deny! Finally, never punt on first down, no matter how good of an idea it seems to be at the time. By the way, I'm worried about your cholesterol bud, keep an eye on that."
"Ken Miller, this is Danny Barrett calling. Now, as for as being a head coach is concerned, you need to make sure that every player wants to be a part of what we're trying to do here, and that's the key. You know, someone asked me this morning if I thought you were the right guy for the job in Saskatchewan, and I told him Eric Tillman was exactly right. He made the decision that had to be made for himself and for all of the great great fans in Saskatchewan."
"Marc Trestman here, congratulations Ken. Hey since we are both entering our first season as a head coach in the CFL, I was thinking we should get together for coffee. I think there's a lot we could learn from each other. I could tell you about all the pressures you face in the first few weeks on the job and you could teach me how 3 down football is played. What do you say?"