Teaching and Coaching
January 20, 2022
Miller returned to his alma mater in 1968 to teach Physical Education.
He could always be found in the gym playing Battle Ball with his classes, talking all things athletics, and recruiting for Tyrone sports.
In spite of his stern approach to education, everyone wanted Mr. Miller as their gym teacher.
“You always knew which students were placed with Mr. Miller by their cheers [when the schedules were released],” said TAHS grad Katie Riley.
Miller cared deeply for his students, always making an effort to get to know them in class and on their respective playing fields.
“One of the greatest things about him was how unflappable he was,” said former student Vincent Gray. “In 7th grade, I got knocked unconscious in a freak volleyball accident. When I came to, he was so relaxed and matter of fact that I didn’t even realize how bad it was or that I was out for a few minutes. I remember sitting in the nurse’s office looking down and finally noticing that my shirt was saturated with blood and Mr. Miller was explaining to the nurse ‘Well, we had a little run in playing volleyball today.’”
He was widely loved, respected, and cherished by students and fellow teachers alike.
“I absolutely loved having Mr. Miller in class,” said former student Emily Oakes. “He called everyone by their last names. I can’t imagine how a teacher keeps track of all those names, but looking back it made you feel close to him. It was a way to bond with students.”
In addition to teaching, Miller was head coach of the Tyrone varsity football team during both the 1980s and 1990s, as well as an assistant at Moshannon Valley, Bellefonte, and Philipsburg.
He coached basketball, baseball, and track and field at many levels. He also trained athletes of all sports in the weight room.
In 1979, Miller was hired as the head coach of the Tyrone varsity football team. With his college football experience and successes, Miller was perfect for the job. After all, his greatest passion was sports and sharing his knowledge of it with others.
“It was his ‘reason for being,’” said Jim Butler, former Tyrone High School social studies teacher and one of Miller’s assistant coaches. “He viewed everything through athletics. He was good at it and he made it his career. It wasn’t like work to him.”
Although ‘Coach’ could be tough when necessary, Miller cared deeply about his athletes and his relationships with them.
“I remember [one time] Coach [was] chewing us out on the practice field, [and he] turned away and then turned back to us and said ‘I love you guys,’” recalled former player, David Stack.
Miller was known as a “player’s coach” and always emphasized the importance of having fun while playing. He allowed his athletes to feel comfortable competing without added pressure.
“He was really good to us. It wasn’t ever a toxic environment. He could make you laugh…[but] he was serious about the game, and that came through,” said Kevin Ferner in Kerry Naylor’s second volume of The Tyrone Football Story.
Miller spent 10 years as Tyrone’s head football coach, finishing with a 46-42-6 record. He vacated the position when John Franco took over in 1994. Miller is tied for third all-time coaching wins in Tyrone football history, with 46 wins between 1979-1986 and 1992-1993.
After Franco was hired at Tyrone, Miller relocated his coaching talents to Moshannon Valley as a defensive coordinator.
“[Coach Miller] was the coolest. I wish I would have had more than one season with him. It meant a lot to all of us he was there for us, even without any ties to the area. He used to call us ‘the boys up the mountain.’ He’ll always be remembered as a Tyrone guy, but the boys up the mountain loved him too,” said Andy Stine, former Moshannon Valley football player and current sports editor at the Daily Herald.
When Miller’s five children started playing sports, he began coaching little league, youth football, and youth basketball.
Although typical for coaches to draft their own children, Miller’s two oldest, Barbara and Lance, played for an opposing team within the minor league.
“[Coach Tom Miller] was the first coach that believed I could pitch,” said former player John Harlow. “He told me that the key to pitching was own the inside corner. If they are leaning over the plate, brush them back so you get to the outside corner.”
During a regular season game that year, Harlow was pitching to Coach’s daughter and accidentally drilled her.
“When I got back to the dugout, I was worried about facing an angry father. He said ‘John, I said rule the inside corner, don’t drill my daughter,’” said Harlow.
Miller also coached various girls basketball teams during his tenure.
“He was the definition of grit. He was a man of character, integrity and hard work. He loved his family and [players] as if we were his own children. He provided me [with] a rock solid foundation on which I built my athletic career,” said former player Megan Delbaggio Fernandez.