ROCKTON, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF)–When I think of Hononegah High School, one of the first people who comes to mind is Mike Miller. He has been a part of that school most his life. He graduated from there in 1984. The past 21 years Miller has been the head boys basketball coach there, but now those long ties are loosening. Miller is retiring from both his coaching position and his teaching position.
“I feel like this is the greatest school district in the state of Illinois. I really believe in this community.”
That was Mike Miller commenting in May of 2001 when he was hired as Hononegah’s head basketball coach. His feelings for Hononegah haven’t changed one bit these past 21 years.
You really love this place don’t you, Hononegah?
“I do,” said Miller. “Four generations of my family grew up within a block of this place. My parents were high school sweethearts here. My grandfather was a former school board president. I grew up literally in the gyms and the fields of Hononegah High School.
Miller’s 397 wins at Hononegah are far and away the most of any basketball coach in the school’s history. His teams won three NIC-10 championships.
“I was able to coach some of my cousins. That was great,” said Miller. “The David Brown era was fantastic.”
Miller first made his mark as a head coach at Rockford Guilford when, at the age of 24, he took over there in 1991. In 1993 he guided the Vikings to a state runner-up finish. In 1998 he led Galesburg to another state runner-up finish.
“Both experiences, both Guilford and Galesburg were unbelievable. The Guilford thing was such an abnormality because I was so young.”
The game has changed over the years. Miller changed too. His Guilford and Galesburg teams got up and down the court and pressed. His Hononegah teams relied on zone defenses and three-point shooting.
Hononegah will return a lot of talent next year, but Miller has decided the time is right to walk away now.
“I think it’s the right time because I’m done as a teacher. I’m fully vested in my retirement as a teacher. I want to make sure that we’re giving the kids the best option, and I thought the timing was just right for someone else to have a shot at it.”
“I was really happy to serve 21 years in this position. This place is always going to be part of me.”
Miller’s teams at his four high school stops (he also coached one year at Elgin High School) won 572 games.