Legendary Glenwood Springs High football coach Don Miller passes away
Funeral services for former Glenwood Springs High School coach Don Miller will take place at 10:30 a.m. Sunday at Stubler Memorial Field in Glenwood Springs.
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — J.D. Miller remembers vividly the only time he saw his father, Don Miller, cry.
“It was right before the 1978 state championship game. Twelve inches of snow had fallen on the football field,” J.D. said. “And people came from all over to shovel the field. He was just so moved and couldn’t believe it.”
That, according to Don Miller’s youngest son, Jason, was the embodiment of what the longtime football coach at Glenwood Springs High School was during a coaching career that spanned more than a generation. It’s also how most people will remember Miller, who passed away on Monday. He was 79.
“His whole identity within this community was as a football coach,” Jason Miller said on Wednesday from the Miller’s Glenwood Springs home near Cardiff. “He was very proud of that.”
Miller, whose health had been fading for the past two years, amassed a coaching record of 204-174-4 in the three-plus decades he spent on the sidelines as the school’s football coach. The Demons won state championships under his tutelage in 1978 and 1980. He was inducted into the Colorado High School Activities Association Hall of Fame and the Colorado High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame, coaching his final high school football game in 1995.
“He was such a monumental figure here,” said Sandy DeCrow, a former coach and student at the high school. “If somebody asked, ‘Where’s coach?’ you knew exactly who they were talking about. You didn’t even need to say his last name.”
Miller also was Glenwood’s wrestling coach in the 1960s and was the school’s track and field coach until the 1997 season. His track and field teams claimed 20 district championships and finished second at the state meet twice.
“It was a great experience to coach under him,” said Blake Risner, Glenwood’s current head track and field coach who was an assistant track coach in Miller’s final two years. “One of the things I took from him was how much tradition mattered to him. When I took over, it was the least I could do to try to build on the tradition he had built already.”
Miller was also the school’s athletic director prior to his complete retirement in 1999. He was the school’s AD from 1975-79 and from 1995-99, giving way to former Glenwood AD Steve Cable.
Miller was well known not only for the success his teams had on the football field, but for what he wore on the sidelines. He always wore a T-shirt or a short-sleeved dress shirt with a tie regardless of the weather. It was, as his son John said, his way of telling his players that he was with them and would support them no matter what.
“The guy just made you believe you could do anything,” said Norm Bolitho, who played on both of Glenwood’s state-championship football teams in 1978 and 1980. “He never wore a jacket and he never wore anything warm, and it was to make a point to them that he would endure anything for them.”
Miller was part of a coaching staff at Glenwood that included boys basketball coach Bob Chavez, Athletic Director Nick Stubler and girls basketball coach Harlan Spencer, all of whom spent decades at the school. And all of them are forever immortalized at the school.
The football field and track, where Miller led the Demons to those two state championships, is now named Stubler Memorial Field. The school’s basketball court is now named Spencer/Chavez Gymnasium. The street behind Stubler Memorial Field was renamed Coach Miller Drive during a halftime ceremony at the field in October, 2003.
“It’s the end of an era, for sure,” said Mike Wells, who was Glenwood Springs High School’s principal at the time that Miller retired. “He’s a legendary man who impacted so many people in such a positive way. His legacy for the community of Glenwood Springs is just huge.”
Miller was born on Feb. 28, 1936. He grew up in Burlington, Colorado, and grew up in a mud hut with his siblings before earning a football scholarship at Western State College in Gunnison. He then helped coach baseball at his alma mater from 1961-62, was the head football coach at Wiggins from 1962-64, then spent the final 31 years of his coaching career at Glenwood.
“When dad brought him in, I was 5,” said Gary Stubler, the son of Nick Stubler who played for Miller on the football field until his 1978 graduation. “We just missed those great years, but you could see everything building into what it was going to be.
“He was hard-nosed kind of like our own Vince Lombardi,” he continued. “He was hard on us, but you could always tell that he loved us.”
Miller is survived by his sons, John and Jason, his daughter Kelly, and 10 grandchildren.
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