Coming home to coach: Miller to lead sons, highly touted Mustangs at Hoop City Classic
One of the Corn Palace’s biggest stars is coming home again.
As a highly recruited prospect in the 1990s, Mike Miller packed the Corn Palace and made national headlines as a Mitchell Kernel. He’ll return to the hallowed venue in December, but instead of donning the black and gold or merely making an appearance, Miller will coach from the sidelines once manned by Kernel coach Gary Munsen during the Hoop City Classic.
“It’s obviously exciting,” Miller told the Mitchell Republic this week. “It’s where we grew up playing. So it’s an opportunity to come back there and actually coach there and then my kids are playing, too. So it’s a great opportunity for everybody.”
After stepping down as an assistant coach with the University of Memphis Tigers in June, Miller was named the Houston High School (Tenn.) boys basketball coach in July. In its 11th year of existence, the classic will feature nationally-ranked prospects and teams from around the country. The event started out with Miller’s name on it — the Mike Miller Classic — for the first eight years before changing to the Hoop City Classic in 2018 to accommodate Miller’s college coaching role with the NCAA.
Plans are moving ahead with the event this December, and the schedule for games on Dec. 28-30 will be released at a later date. The Mustangs will play at the Corn Palace and the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls. Houston won a pair of games against Mitchell and Yankton during the 2019 classic and was 29-4 last season.
Miller, 40, won’t be the only family member to grace the Corn Palace court at the classic. Miller’s two sons -- Mason and Mavrick -- are members of the Mustangs. Mason is a 6-foot-9 senior, Mavrick is a 6-foot-5 sophomore and both are knockdown shooters like their father.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Mike Miller said about coaching his sons. “Obviously what I have been doing in the past -- playing and traveling and then coaching and traveling -- it’s good to be around them every day and be a part of this for them, and for me, it’s really kind of a dream come true.”
Mason headlines a host of high-level prospects on Houston’s roster. The four-star power forward is reportedly zeroing in on Indiana, Ohio State and Creighton for his playing services.
Mike, who starred at Florida after considering a bevy of Division I offers, is simply advising Mason to take his time picking a school.
“It’s a big decision and it’s one of those things where you don’t rush into anything,” Mike said. “It’s going to be a good fit for him and somebody he’s comfortable with. At some point, it will really come home to him what the decision is. It will really be an easy one when it pops into his mind.”
As for the elder Miller, he’s in the gym on a regular basis. After resigning from Memphis, the 17-year NBA veteran shifted toward individually training players. He’s most notably been working out NBA Draft prospect R.J. Hampton, a 6-foot-5 guard that projects as a first-round pick this year.
And for Miller it means he’s still in the gym.
“It gives you an opportunity to compete and have fun and kind of pass on some of the stuff that you’ve learned,” Miller said. “I was able to play at a high level for a long time and it’s fun getting in the gym with these kids that are trying to accomplish those same things.”
The late Munsen, of course, was instrumental in helping Miller accomplish his basketball goals. Now that Miller is a head coach, he’ll try to emulate Munsen’s winning culture.
“Style of play is always going to be different with every coach,” Miller said. “But the things that are the constant with winning teams are the cultures they build and the non-negotiables that they have. So Munsen being one of those guys I take a lot of that from.”