February 18, 2010 9:40:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Stan Miller''s retirement has been put on hold for a second time, but this go around he has Starkville as the final destination.
Miller has put off retirement to become the Athletic Director at Starkville High School.
Once a Jersey City, N.J., high school baseball player, Miller made the trek to Florida to play junior college baseball before moving to Starkville to attend Mississippi State University.
His baseball career was over once he got to MSU-- he did test the gridiron with a tryout -- and from that point Miller''s genesis in education and administration began.
After serving as principal at Starkville High School, he had stops as Pearl Public Schools Superintendent and as a superintendent in Arkadelphia, Ark.
His latest move, however, will bring him back to Starkville.
"I''m totally excited because Starkville''s like a home away from home," Miller said in an interesting blend of Southern and Jersey accents. "I got my doctorate at State and (wife) Judy and I are looking to get back to the area. We''re just tickled that this situation is able to work out."
Miller was hired as Starkville''s athletic director this week, with his full-time status to begin in July. For now, he''ll travel back and forth from Arkadelphia to Starkville on a per diem basis to tend to Starkville High''s most pressing need, a head football coach.
Bill Lee retired as Starkville''s Athletic Director and football coach and the school district opted to split up the roles.
The search for an athletic director wasn''t in crisis mode as Lee is on board until the end of the school year. However, in mid-February and in-and-out of Starkville, Miller''s first order of business in finding the football program''s new leader must happen sooner rather than later.
"It''s difficult, I''m not going to sit here and tell you it isn''t," Miller said Wednesday. "Starkville High has a great tradition and I''ve been fortunate when I was at Starkville, Pearl and Arkadelphia of going out and finding good coaches."
He hopes to find the right coach at a time when most schools who''ve been in the market for a new coach have already hired one. For instance, Tupelo High School lured former Clinton and Greenwood coach David Bradberry away from his job as assistant director for the Mississippi High School Activities Association and will begin full time March 1.
With spring practices set to begin in two months, the timetable to find the best fit won''t be compromised by the need to have someone in place for spring practice Miller said.
"If you go through spring practice with a generic system it puts your new coach totally behind in the fall," Miller said. "Our ultimate goal is to get someone here in the spring."
To aid in the process, Miller said he will form a small screening committee to assist with the coaching search when he arrives in Starkville on Monday. He plans to spend all of next week in Starkville.
He didn''t say how many members would make up the committee or exactly who the members would be, but he did stress his priority will be tending to Starkville matters no matter how much time that requires until July.
"The thing I''ve got going is I''m retired, so I''ll be over there as much as I need to budgeting things and meeting with all the coaches to let them know how I''m going to support them," Miller said.
Miller is keen to re-energize a football program that''s won just seven games and had one playoff appearance over the past two seasons. While he was an assistant principal and principal between 1986 and 2000, former Starkville head coach Chuck Friend delivered state titles in Class 4A and 5A.
Miller said he''s confident Starkville High has the athletes to compete on the gridiron, but he understands the competitiveness of the region and the emergence of Memphis-area schools since he left Starkville.
He''s also fully aware of the common plight every athletic director is facing with the massive state budget cuts to education. Some schools are opting to cut programs, like West Point, which has axed its volleyball program. Starkville removed bowling from its list of sports.
That said, Miller believes community involvement is vital in overcoming some of the offset funds from budget cuts for the future of all the athletic programs.
"One of the jobs of the AD is making sure our booster clubs are excited about what''s going on," Miller said. "We''ve got to get to the civic groups, too. I need to let the community know about Stan Miller -- some know me and some don''t -- I got to let them know the vision we have for Starkville High athletics.
"Having the community involved is huge, and I want people to know I have an open-door policy."
Miller acknowledged other issues facing him in the future are Yellowjacket Stadium''s current natural grass field and whether the school should invest in an artificial turf, along with the non-competition track around the stadium.
He was principal when the stadium opened in 2000.
Then, there''s eligibility concerns as low roster numbers have been highlighted in the last year and structuring freshman workout periods during the school day.
"Physically we''ve got to get them ready for 10th and 11th grade, but it''s academically, too," Miller said. "It''s all about working with our principals and superintendents to get them down there and make sure they''re academically eligible, because if they''re not passing Carnegie units we''re losing them anyway."
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