MEDFORD—In front of 70 thousand people before the tip of yesterday’s Final Four in San Antonio, Danny Miles was recognized for being selected to the college basketball Hall of Fame.
Back in Southern Oregon, six of his former players got together to share their perspective and memories. It’s the story of how the 45-year Oregon Tech coach got to the Hall of Fame, as told by those who know him best.
"There always was that aura of not only OIT and the legacy that was there, but coach Miles,” said Ryan Fiegi, who played under Miles from 2006 to 2008.
"Best leader I've ever been around in my life," said John Parent, who played for Miles from 1982 to 1986 and coached with him for the 1987-1988 season.
"When you're that type of person, people want to be around you," said Ryan Bittle, who played for Miles from 1994 to 1996 and coached with him in 1997.
These former OIT basketball players, known as “Danny’s Boys,” can now say they’ve played for a Hall of Fame head coach.
"It's an honor that every coach strives for and very few make it to that pinnacle," Bittle said.
"He taught young men how to be men," said Richard Faust, who played at OIT from 1989-1991.
"If you have a great coach, you want to play hard for them,” Jake Carr (1995-1998) said. “I think that reflected in how hard everybody played for him."
The story of Danny Miles, who he was as a coach, and what made him so special, started with instilling a culture.
"Coach Miles was a really strict disciplinarian,” Parent said. “We really learned a lot from that, but you could tell that he really had a love for his players really cared deeply about them."
The culture became respected, cherished and well known. Players from across the country and even the world started to take notice and buy in.
"He's talking from people all over the continental United States… and actually later on, all over the world, and got them to come to Klamath Falls, Oregon to play basketball," Parent said.
"He never described how the town was, he described how his program was," Faust said.
"When I got to Klamath Falls, people were talking about ‘Danny's Boys,’” said Marvin Woodard, who moved from Mississippi to Klamath Falls in 1993 to play for Miles. “I'd go into buy a mattress and 'Oh you're one of Danny's Boys. Okay I'm going to see you,' which led me to believe that coach Miles had been recruiting really good people for others to really like us even though they had never met us before."
Armed with the right players, the success began to pile on.
Win number 500 came in 1995.
"When you have a coach like that, that just makes you look up to him as a father figure, and it's like, 'I want to achieve the best for him,'" Bittle said.
Miles’ favorite memory came in 1996.
"He said that he had a dream before it happened that one of his players that didn't get to play very much would make the winning free throws and it was pretty crazy that it happened and it was me," Carr said.
With two clutch free throws, Carr pulled the plug on Life University—a team that went on to win the NAIA Division I championship. He was carried off the court, the genius of Miles on full display.
"That could only be reinforced from a coach who trusts you, who brings that integrity of, 'If you're on my team, you are my team, you are my players and anyone from the top to the bottom can come in at any moment,'" Woodard said.
There was a trip to the title game in 1998, and three national championships in the 2000s, as well as his 1000th career win.
"It was and will be the best years of my life," said Fiegi, who was on the 2008 championship team.
A selection to the college basketball Hall of Fame in 2018 is perhaps the final chapter. For Danny’s Boys, that’s exactly how it should be.
"Seeing this accolade being given to him, it's the most fitting thing I think could happen to him," Woodard said.
"That's beyond national titles, that's beyond winning and losing,” Bittle said. “How are you as a person? How have you conducted yourself? What have you done for your community? I think he embodies all of that."