By Kim Staudinger
Longtime Fergus High School basketball coach Ron Miller resigned Monday, saying he felt it was just time to leave.
Throughout his tenure in Lewistown, Miller coached both the boys' and girls' basketball teams. Last fall, he coached the girls team to the Class A State Championship and was named the State A coach of the year.
"I just decided to get out. I think the main thing for me was I just felt like I had enough coaching," Miller said Thursday. " I'm ready to try something else. I'm not sure what it is yet, but I'm ready to try something new."
Miller complied a 200-77 record in his 12 years as head coach at Lewistown. He was an assistant coach for eight years before taking over as head coach.
"It seems like I've either played ball or coached my whole life," he said.
Miller is ending his career on top.
The last nine years, his teams have made a trip to the state tournament seven times, three times as divisional champions.
He was also named Central A Coach of the Year in at least three seasons, and led the Golden Eagles to four conference championships.
"One thing I always said is that I would get out when the program is very strong," Miller said. "And it still should be next year."
Miller said he will miss many things about being a coach, especially the friends he's made throughout Montana.
One of his closest coaching cronies is Havre High School girls basketball coach and athletic director Dennis Murphy. The friendship created an intense rivalry between the schools, said Miller, who plans to continue attending high school basketball games and tournaments, and will stay in touch with his coaching friends.
One reason Miller said he decided to step down as coach is the time commitment.
"I didn't feel like I could give (the players) everything they deserve right now," he said.
But just because Miller has decided to take some time off now doesn't mean he won't coach again.
"I was just ready to get out of it," he said. "It doesn't mean I'm going to stay out of it. I'm not looking at this as a permanent thing."
While Miller's family wanted him to continue coaching, he said, the decision to quit was more for himself.
Miller made a list of the pros and cons of his coaching job, and although it wasn't a major factor in his decision, he said, the upcoming switch of the girls basketball and volleyball seasons did have an impact.
"The switching of the seasons was definitely a minus," he said.
Miller informed the squad of his decision Wednesday night, something he said wasn't easy to do.
The free time, however, will enable Miller to travel more often to see some of his former players play collegiate basketball, including his most recent standout, Katie Edwards, who will play for the University of Montana next season.
"I've told people for a long time that Ron Miller is the best coach in the state of Montana," Fergus High Principal Scott Dubbs said today. "We were excited when he came the first day and that excitement has continued through it all."
A math instructor at Fergus High School, Miller said he will continue teaching.
Also ending his coaching career in Lewistown is volleyball coach Sterling Sundheim, who, like Miller, resigned Monday.
Sundheim said his decision was based more on the seasons switching than personal reasons. The upcoming fall volleyball season is the busiest time for his job with the state, Sundheim said.
"I'm going to be committed to a project and won't be able to do both," he said. "I'm going to be out of town three to four days a week for construction projects. In the fall, I'm at everyone's mercy, where in the winter I can control things a little more."
Sundheim said when he first started coaching, he never thought he would do so for 12 years, 10 of which he was varsity head coach.
"I never expected to be doing it this long," he said. "It's disappointing. It's been a rewarding experience. The kids are terrific, we have great boosters who support us well, the administration is wonderful. We'll be missing all that."
"I hope we've established a pretty good tradition here at Fergus High School and I hope that tradition continues," Sundheim added.
Like Miller, Sundheim also has a special connection with Havre, saying the city will always have a special place in his heart.
"Most of the parents kind of know me," he said, noting many take the time to come talk to him at tournaments. "I will kind of miss all that."
Miller's and Sundheim's positions will be open for applications after the school board meeting Monday, Dubbs said.
"They're obviously quality leaders and as a reassurance, they leave quality programs," he said. "While their loss is hard for us, there are people in the ranks who are very capable of taking over and maintaining that success."