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Miles preps for final run at OIT

It was the first last. A lot of first lasts, actually, for veteran Oregon Tech men's basketball coach Danny Miles.

Still under the affects of jet lag, the Medford native returned from his annual trip to France to work with national youth basketball organizations and coaches a week ago Saturday, Miles grinned when he said: “Last day of camp. Forty-five years.”

As he prepares for his final season with the Hustlin' Owls, Friday was the last day for skills camps, games camps, week-long stretches where Miles figures more than 18,000 young men and women learned to hone their basketball hopes.

Five thousand, he said, from the Klamath Basin.

“I've seen kids who were in camp who are now grandparents,” Miles said as he watched out over the basketball court which carries his name, watching games being played for the last hour his name would be associated with the Oregon Tech camps.

Miles looked out over the court and saw a grandson, other local players, some related to former players.

Mark Helfrich, the University of Oregon football coach, was one of the first names Miles recalled having had in camp.

“There was Chris Glidden, Lydia Ledgerwood, Amy Denson, Tara Harrington (all of whom played NCAA Division I women's basketball). There were several who played small college basketball (many for the Hustlin' Owls).

“Jeff Bronkey was in camp, Dean Andretta, Jeff Riggs,” Miles said.

Bronkey went on to pitch in the major league. Riggs was the first men's basketball player from the Skyline Conference, a Henley grad, to play in the Pac-12, although he finished his career at the University of Montana.

“I just loved watching the 5-6-year-olds,” Miles said. “The kids were ready to cry as their mothers tried to sneak out on the first day. By the third day of camp, they could hardly wait to get to the basket with the balls.

“It has been watching kids 6 to 18, some of whom I didn't think could make it, by the time they got to high school and had worked at it, made it. Things like that are neat to see.”

The original couple years, the veteran coach said, the camp was more technically advanced. Then, the camp was opened to all age groups, any player, from anywhere, who wanted to participate in the week-long experience.

Campers came as individuals, some as teams. There were groups from Alaska, California and Oregon, among the states.

“We had to, to pay for expenses,” Miles mused.

For more than four decades Miles used OIT players to work the camp — they coached, they officiated, they had a summer job.

“I always liked that,” he said. “It has been good for the players to see the other side of the game, and the kids loved it. The kids would want to come to our games to see our guys play.”

He loved the game camps, too.

“This is one of the few places kids can play 5-on-5,” Miles said. “They had to be able to learn the instincts.”

His influence has been far beyond the Klamath Basin, or the West Coast, too.

Miles thinks he has worked with more than 4,000 players doing clinics in places like Australia, France (for 10 years), China, Spain, Germany, Rwanda and Kenya (the last two working with Athletes in Action, the athletic ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ).

He turns 69 in October and is not ready to give up doing camps.

“I hope to keep doing them, maybe having a shooting camp in the (Rogue) Valley,” he said. “I want to go back to France. I would like to work with kids who can't afford to pay.”

Before that, however, there are many more first lasts — the first last practice, home-court tournament, games at the various Cascade Collegiate Conference schools. The list goes on.

One Miles and OIT fans especially hope for is a last first trip to Branson, Mo., with the current group of players for a final attempt at a Leap Year championship, a last title in a legendary, storied career far too secret around the state and country.