STAMFORD — An important step on one’s coaching journey is earning that first head coaching job in a major high school conference.
That day has arrived for Charlie Miller as he was named the new girls basketball head coach at Trinity Catholic for the upcoming 2019-2020 FCIAC season.
“This opportunity is an excellent place for me to start,” Miller said. “I’m ecstatic to take over a historic program like Trinity Catholic girls basketball.”
Miller has built a solid foundation of experience toward accepting this challenge.
He has spent the last five seasons as freshman, junior varsity and varsity assistant coach with Staples girls basketball. He was junior varsity and boys basketball assistant coach at Norwalk for five years.
Miller was also a junior varsity and varsity boys basketball assistant coach at St. Luke’s School under current Trinity Catholic boys basketball coach Brian Kriftcher.
Miller also spent four seasons coaching two boys and two girls age group basketball teams at the Stamford Peace Basketball Club run by Kriftcher.
This coaching decision was right in the wheelhouse for Trinity Catholic Dean of Students/Athletic Director Jack Kelly. He has been an assistant girls basketball coach for the past two decades, most recently at current defending FCIAC champion Trumbull.
“Charlie has great knowledge of the game of basketball. Staples has been a winning program during his tenure there,”Kelly said. “I could see that in the times when Trumbull and Staples girls faced each other. Charlie checked a lot of the boxes addressing what we were looking for.”
The past three regular seasons, Staples was 13-7, 14-6 and 12-7.
“The experience I gained at Staples working with girls basketball was invaluable to me,” Miller said. “It’s a different style working with girls. The philosophy doesn’t change but the ways you communicate does.”
The ties between Miller and Staples girls basketball head coach Paco Fabian were built over decades.
“Paco and I grew up together. We played together on the Norwalk boys basketball 1996 Class LL state championship team (The Bears beat Xavier, 62-59. Norwalk lost 66-60 to Fairfield Prep in 1997 Class LL final),” Miller said. “So our rapport was great. It was a situation where we could bounce ideas off each other without judgement. And the girls saw that.”
At Trinity Catholic, Miller faces the task of following legendary Hall of Fame coach Mike Walsh. Walsh will return this season as the Crusaders boys basketball assistant coach after leading the TC girls basketball squad (22-5 overall) to the 2019 Class S state title and the 2019 FCIAC Championship final.
“I’ve always had a good relationship with coach Walsh,” Miller said. “Our Norwalk boys basketball teams beat coach Walsh and Trinity Catholic a few times in my playing days.”
Trinity Catholic graduated five seniors from that title squad including leading scorer Iyanna Lops, now playing college basketball at Cal-Bakersfield.
“Everybody will be gunning for us,” Miller said. “We will be among every opponent’s Top 3 games this coming season. Lots of teams who want to get payback.”
The Crusaders have two returning starters in senior point guard Caitlyn Scott and senior forward Kiera Fenske. Sophomore Bella Edwards, who was injured much of last season, is an intriguing possibility.
“Caitlyn (Scott) is one of the best point guards in the FCIAC. I expect great things from her,” Miller said. “The experience all our returnees gained last year will be such a plus this coming season.”
Miller, who played both small and power forward at American International College (AIC) — the alma mater of Jim Calhoun, is embracing his next big challenge.
“My philosophy is to keep things simple. And be fair to the players,” Miller said. “It all starts with hard work, respect and playing defense.”