Dan Miller knew he was stepping into some very big shoes when he took over the Corvallis High girls basketball program this year.
Miller replaced Greg Garrison, who was the state 5A coach of the year after the 2016-17 season. Garrison went 89-21 in four seasons with the CHS girls program and led the Spartans to a second-place finish in 2014, third in 2016 and 2017 and fifth in 2015.
Garrison also led the CHS boys to two state titles before switching to the girls program.
When Garrison left to coach boys basketball at the American School in Japan, Miller wanted a crack at the job. He was an assistant under Garrison for three years.
"So I had some familiarity with it and wanted to come back and have the opportunity to coach this group of girls that I've grown to know and wanted to keep a lot of things similar for them, keep some continuity and keep them going forward," Miller said.
"Obviously I'm not Garrison, so some things have been a little bit different. But it's just a good group to be with."
Taking over for a coach that had built such an impressive resume can be intimidating, but Miller has taken it in stride for the most part.
He said the task is both daunting and exciting, and the Spartans have high expectations after several successful seasons.
"Obviously it's big shoes to fill with Garrison, but it's something that I think has helped as I've talked with our players, because they've got big shoes to fill on some of the seniors that have graduated last year," Miller said. "So we kind of have a point of bonding there in being in similar straits."
Miller, who is an attorney at the Law Office of Daniels and Ivers in Albany, understands that he does not have a lot of experience for a head coach and has asked his older players to help out as much as possible.
He also has had a high-level mentor to work with for the past three seasons and spent that time soaking in everything Garrison brought to the table.
"I think the biggest thing that coach Garrison excels at is attention to detail and so that's something that I work on every day, and I'm sure I miss a lot of things, but we focus on the small things. We talk, we communicate with our teammates," Miller said.
"(We ask) 'are we doing the right things?' And if we do the right things over and over again through repetition, we'll get the result that we want eventually. So I'm kind of taking that to make that my own and my own style."
Cayden (formerly Krysta) Wilson said the players are all comfortable with Miller.
"Dan is great. He pushes us to our potential," Wilson said. "He's not as serious as Greg was. He's more casual, up about it, stays positive, telling us what we do right and then we focus on what we do wrong in practices. He just kind of keeps us feeling good and not weigh us down with the things we're doing wrong. He's great."
Said Ellie Harding: "I think he's a great coach. I think he's falling really closely to Garrison's techniques, which obviously was successful. I think he's doing great things with the young players we have right now, and I think it's only going to get better from here and I'm excited for the rest of the year. I'm looking forward to every game and I think we're going to get better every practice under his leadership."
While Garrison often had a gruff exterior and a hard-nosed approach to the game, Miller is more soft-spoken.
Harding described Miller as calm and composed.
"He kind of helps us stay together when we're going through tough times on the court and off the court, when we get into arugments," Harding said. "He's always the one that steps in and can solve the problem and we all end up feeling better and we grow from the experience when he helps us do that."
Wilson and Harding are the two seniors on the roster this season.
The Spartans are young and working to find their identity after losing first-team 5A all-state players Alexandria Vallancey-Martinson and Grace Corbin, both frontline players, along with point guard Taylor Hurley.
"Alexandria Vallancey-Martinson and Grace Corbin were two of the best posts, and so we lost all of our size and we're trying to figure out a whole new offense having to incorporate just our (players) because we don't have size anymore," Wilson said. "So it's definitely different but we're trying to fill some pretty big spots."
Miller will do his best to bring the team together and into a cohesive unit on and off the court.
He believes in helping the players become well-rounded people as they move into adulthood, and said CHS is a place that is conducive to that philosophy.
"It's something I take a lot of pride in," Miller said. "I think Corvallis basketball is a good program, not just in what we put on the court but I think in terms of the citizens that are developed here at the high school, and I think our sports are a big part of that."