By Tom Robinson
Sean Miller is anxious to get started.
“To say I’m excited is quite an understatement,” Miller said of becoming Northwest boys basketball coach. “I’m ready to roll.
“If I could get in the gym right now, I would and I’m sure the kids feel the same way.”
Miller was appointed interim head coach Wednesday night at a school board work session in anticipation of being formally appointed as head coach at the June 20 board meeting.
Rangers players are participating in a summer league at Nanticoke Tuesday nights and Miller plans to be there to see the next game as well as getting to know the players more through weekly open gym workouts.
Miller, a 31-year-old Forty Fort resident who serves as human resources manager at Slocomb Windows & Doors in Hanover Township, has been building toward this opportunity since the months after his own high school playing days ended.
While the other four basketball players in his senior class at Hanover Area left the area for college, Miller remained home and landed his first coaching opportunity when his high school head coach, Bill Callahan, arranged for Miller to remain in the program.
Miller has also spent 10 years coaching Backcourt Hoops and JB Hoops AAU boys teams in Scranton, moving up through various grade levels, along with a dozen years of scholastic coaching.
“Sean has been a real pleasure to deal with,” Backcourt Hoops and JB Hoops owner John Bucci said. “He’s a very quiet guy, but he gets his points across.
“Any time I ever needed anything done, Sean was the first to volunteer and go out of his way. He always puts the kids first. I think he’s going to do great at Northwest.”
Miller followed up one year as seventh-grade coach at Hanover Area by coaching the freshmen team at the school for four years, then serving one year as junior varsity coach/varsity assistant.
“Bill Callahan, who has also been involved in JB Hoops and with Coach Bucci, was my high school coach and asked me to be the seventh-grade coach the year after I graduated,” Miller said. “As soon as I started there, I was hooked. That’s what I wanted to do.
“The ultimate goal was to be a head coach. It took me 14 years to do it.”
Miller went from coaching at Hanover Area to spending a year coaching the freshmen at Dallas. He then put in four years at Wyoming Seminary as JV coach/varsity assistant. He since spent one season as an assistant at Luzerne County Community College.
“I’ve been lucky enough to coach with Bill Callahan and Coach Bucci for numerous years and with everything I’ve learned from them and C.J. Kersey, too, at Wyoming Seminary; those three guys have been the biggest influencers on what I do,” Miller said. “I’ve kind of taken a little bit from each of them and incorporated my own style from what I’ve learned.”
Miller takes over a team that went 4-12 in the Wyoming Valley Conference to place fourth out of six teams in Division 3 and 11-16 overall. The Rangers qualified for the state tournament by reaching the District 2 Class 2A championship game at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
Under former coach Dustin Babcock, Northwest knocked off District 4 champion Muncy, 69-57, to reach the second round of state play where it was eliminated by Moravian Academy, 72-46.
“They’ve got a lot of guys coming back,” Miller said. “I believe they have four senior starters and a lot of guys who played a lot of varsity minutes.
“The goal is to repeat last year and kind of go a little bit further.”
Sam Saxe and Jaxson Yaple, who combined to average more than 28 points per game, were the sharpshooting leaders of a team that looked tougher once it got to face more schools of its own size late in the season.
Miller described the players as tough, hard-working and enthusiastic, which he said matches well with the way he likes to coach.