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Coach of the Year a Jack of all trades

Greenfield's Miller wins second coach of the year award

June 29, 2009

Greenfield — Jack Miller never intended to get into coaching girls high school athletics.

Now, he cannot picture his life without doing so.

"I never thought I'd be doing it 18 years," said Miller, who began coaching Greenfield softball in 1992. "I love it so much, I plan on doing it until I retire, and I've got at least another 11 years of teaching. Life changes and you never know, but that's why I put so much time into it."

That time spent on the softball program was evident during the second weekend in June. Just days after his Hustlin' Hawks made their third WIAA state tournament berth under Miller's guidance, the veteran coach was coaching five Greenfield Igniters games, teams from a feeder program that he began a few years ago.

It is that dedication - as well as some nifty in-season maneuvering that helped the Hawks win the Woodland Conference South Division title and advance to state - that earned Miller the 2009 NOW All-Suburban Softball Team coach of the year honor.

Miller, who also won the NOW All-Suburban Girls Basketball coach of the year award following the 2006-07 season, began his softball coaching career at Battery Creek High School in Buford, S.C. After one season there and one away from coaching, he was hired at Greenfield to teach history and coach softball.

Now, he has 294 career wins, second-most among active coaches in the NOW coverage area.

"It's not the wins and losses, even though the wins make it easier in many facets," Miller said. "It's just working with kids and seeing them progress, seeing the light go on in their head and seeing them gaining confidence and turning into mature young adults."

This season, Miller moved All-Suburban catcher Shannon Butts to pitcher to fill a void left by Ashley Kowalewski. A few games into the season, he moved All-Suburban Player of the Year Stacey Butts from first base to shortstop after the Hawks made a slew of early season infield miscues. The move was unorthodox, considering Stacey Butts is left-handed, but the defense improved, the Hawks went on a prolonged run and won the division title, advanced to state and finished 21-7.

"Once he (moved Stacey Butts to shortstop), it turned their season around," said New Berlin Eisenhower coach Jeff Setz, the 2008 NOW coach of the year. "They got much better defensively. Because of that type of move, he's deserving of the award.

"He's so good at the fundamentals. Greenfield's solid in every part of the game defensively and offensively. He does it year in and year out. It's not that he necessary has great players every year, but he finds a way to win."

Miller, who praised Russ O'Keefe, a Greenfield assistant the last eight years, said he understands softball is just a small part of a high school athlete's life development. He said he stresses faith in family and academics more so than throwing strikes or dropping down sacrifice bunts.

Stacey Butts, who spent the last four seasons with Miller, agreed.

"He always stresses 110 percent and always has everything in order," she said. "Academics come first, then family and then athletics. He has those priorities in line. He did a great job. He taught me and everybody else a lot they didn't already know about softball."

Coaches of the Year

2009: Jack Miller, Greenfield

2008: Jeff Setz, New Berlin Eisenhower

2007: Kent Kroupa, Whitnall

2006: Dave Keel, Homestead

2005: Nathan Vance, Oak Creek

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