Although Lucius Miller grew up a sprinter, he’s knows it’s going to take the mentality of a marathon runner when it comes to turning around Rincon/University’s football program.
The Rangers appointed Miller, a longtime assistant coach with the team, to interim head coach after the hiring of ex-NFL star Andre Rison fell through in April. Rincon went 0-10 last season and have finished with a winning record just once since 2006.
“We are not ashamed of our history,” Miller said, “but we don’t want history to repeat itself.”
The 50-year-old Kansas native has been a track coach and assistant for the Rincon football since the mid-1990s. Miller said he doesn’t see himself as a stopgap but someone with staying power players can rally behind.
Miller helped the Rangers win the girls 4A track state title in 1998 and was part of two team titles in 1979 and 1981 during his high school career at Santa Rita. He also received All-American honors in 1983 with the Arizona Wildcats for his part on the 400-meter relay team.
The Star caught up with Miller to find out what he hopes to accomplish in his first year:
Miller is Rincon’s fifth coach in nine years and the eighth man to hold the job since he started working at the school two decades ago. One of the first things he’s hoping to improve is involvement and optimism from the community.
“Once we get everyone on board, I think this program will flourish,” Miller said. “We have good kids here, they just need to be nurtured a little bit and have that support behind them.
“Right now there’s just not enough people around saying you can do it.”
After all, it’s not as if winless is the norm for the Rangers. They went 6-4 just two years ago and qualified for the state playoffs in 2005 and 2006.
With a clean slate comes the chance to gain some confidence heading into the season.
Rather than try to do too much, Miller is emphasizing fundamentals. The team was outscored 427-45 by its opponents last year, and was shut out in its final five games.
“We’re trying to remind the kids hard work, determination, coming to practice every day and doing what you’re supposed to do will alleviate some of that losing,” Miller said. “Once you know what you’re supposed to do on the field and in the weight room and get that strength and get that speed, we can play with the other high schools.”
The soft-spoken Miller isn’t shy about his expectations: He wants the Rangers to finish 2014 with a winning record.
He’s anticipating his veteran defense to be a strength and is hoping a simplified offense will allow his team to play faster and execute more efficiently.
It’s a tall order, especially given Rincon’s schedule: The Rangers will face five returning playoff teams in their final six games.
“We are going to play tough, be in the right position, not make a lot of mental mistakes and line up and come at you,” Miller said. “Offensively it’s going to be simple. You are going to know what we’re doing but we will still be able to get our yards.”