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He's Miles ahead ... in one place

He's Miles ahead ... in one place

Commentary —

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Dan Miles had his bags packed three or four different times, set to leave Oregon Tech in Klamath Falls and head for greener pastures. —

— But, for various reasons, his belongings went back into the closet. —

— Miles hasn't gained a great deal of recognition over the years while piling up 20-win seasons as the head basketball coach at Oregon Tech. —

— But when the former Medford High three-sport standout captured his 600th coaching victory at the school last month, well, heads turned from Tulelake to Tualatin. —

— With his milestone victory -- Miles has since added six more W's to the docket -- he surpassed the legendary Slats Gill of Oregon State on the all-time list of college basketball wins in Oregon. —

— And lest one believes Miles is about to fade away like a Klamath Basin warm spell on an October evening, consider that he's only 54 years old and plans to coach for 10 more years. —

— At least. —

— I'm doing what I love to do, Miles said from his office on the Oregon Tech campus earlier this week. I'm in good shape physically. I look at guys like Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno and think, hey, I'm a young man. —

— While 600 wins is a lofty achievement by anyone's standards, what's even more impressive is that Miles -- with a record of 606-293 -- has won 67 percent of his games. (At 599-392, Gill won 61 percent of his.) —

— That, and Miles' 26 winning seasons in 29 years. And the 17 seasons in which his teams have won 20 or more games. —

— Born and raised in Medford, Miles was an honorable mention all-state quarterback in football, an all-conference guard in basketball and an honorable mention all-state shortstop in baseball for the Black Tornado. —

— Despite standing just 5-foot-7, he went on to set numerous school and national passing records at Southern Oregon University. His season-best completion percentage of 77 percent and his career mark of 67 percent are national records -- and that includes every level of college football -- to this day. —

— Miles got his degree in education and took a teaching job at Klamath Union High School in 1968. no means did he plan on spending his whole career on the east side of the Cascade Mountains. —

— But a couple of job offers as head basketball coach at Southern Oregon came and went, Miles' three boys entered school and, the more he lived in Klamath Falls, the more he grew to like it. —

— The community has been incredibly supportive, Miles says. We draw 1,200 to 1,500 fans every game and there have been times when people have waited in line at 4 in the afternoon in order to get a ticket. —

— I think every coach at some point in his career is interested in testing the waters somewhere else, to see if he can build another program. But I have no regrets about staying put. —

— When Miles was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame four years ago, a couple of coaches' wives from Division I schools approached him and said how much they envied his situation. —

— They just said how tough it is on a family to keep moving around, Miles says. And they said it looked like I was having a lot of fun, that I wasn't under the stress that their husbands were. —

— The academic scenario has changed considerably at Oregon Tech since Miles first stepped into its doors nearly three decades ago. Back then, the school was mostly vocational. It was where a young man might go if he wanted to become a welder or a diesel mechanic. —

— These days, Oregon Tech offers four-year programs with an emphasis on engineering, health-related studies and business. With entrance into the school more difficult, and with out-of-state tuition costs so high, Miles has had to narrow his recruiting domain mostly to Oregon. —

— We may not get the real talented kid we used to get, but the guys we have now buy into the team aspect, says Miles, whose 1998 squad advanced to the championship game of the NAIA Division II national tournament. We usually have three or four guys in double figures every game. —

— In the summers, Miles heads over to Paris, where he serves as an instructor and adviser and helps select the French national teams for boys and girls in the 16-17 age bracket. —

— Miles has opened the door for several former Oregon Tech players to land spots on professional teams in Europe -- seven are currently playing -- and in turn he has recruited a handful of European high school players to suit up for the Owls. —

— While growing up in Medford, Miles played for some legendary coaches such as Fred Spiegelberg (football), Frank Roelandt (basketball) and John Kovenz (baseball). The one who had the greatest influence on him, though, was Chief McLean, a longtime teacher and coach at Roosevelt Elementary School. —

— He first coached me when I was in the fourth grade, and he was still my baseball coach in summer ball when I was 18, Miles says. He was a disciplinarian, but he was very knowledgeable and you couldn't help but love the guy. I learned an awful lot from him, and it went beyond sports. —

— Asked why he never returned to Medford to teach and coach, Miles said, My father told me one time, `You'll never be a prophet in your own home.' —

— In other words, in the eyes of the hometown folks, you won't be able to measure up like someone could who came from the outside. —

— They named a ballpark in Medford after Dan's father, Shorty. With 604 wins and counting, Dan Miles may some day have Klamath County named after him.