Hometown:  Chanute, KS
Born: 3/9/1919


Link to his Basketball Hall of Fame site

CATEGORY   TOTAL   1939 1940 1942
YEAR     So. Jr. Sr.
HEIGHT       6'1  
WEIGHT       175  
Games Played/Started 59/   12/ 25/ 22/
Points 603   81 228 294
   Per Game 10.2   6.8 9.1 13.4
   Per Game          
FG: Attempts          
FT: Attempts          

1939:  Lettered, Starter, Honorable Mention All Big 6

1940:  Lettered, Starter All Big 6

1941: Medical redshirt (had operation on knee)

1942:  Lettered, Starter, All Big 6, Conference Scoring Champ, Captain


RALPH “CAPPY” MILLER  (Player 1939-42)

Miller was from Chanute, Kansas, where he earned four letters each in football and track, three in basketball, and one each in golf and tennis at Chanute High School.  While in junior high, Bob Allen (Coach Phog Allen’s son) informed his father that he had just scrimmaged against the finest player he’d ever seen.  It was the first of several meetings between Ralph and the Allen’s.  In a state tournament contest, Chanute High played a game right after Bob Allen’s Lawrence High game.  Miller had injured his hip during the first half and Phog, an osteopathic physician, was asked to examine Ralph.  Phog fixed him up and Miller scored 26 points in the second half to lead Chanute to the state championship.

“I knew many schools were angling for Miller’s services, but I did not use my advantage to endeavor to entice him to KU,” Phog wrote in 1937.  He didn’t have to, as he had every indication that Miller was coming to Kansas, including the word of Miller’s father, Harold.  Phog had also coached Ralph’s Uncle Howard.  Over 70 colleges heavily recruited Miller, including Stanford which promised that his transportation costs to and from home would be handled.  Stanford was coached by John Bunn, a former KU player and assistant coach.  A wealthy Stanford alum flew Miller to Palo Alto where he stayed at Bunn’s home.  Under pressure, Miller agreed to attend Stanford.

When Phog Allen heard of it, he arranged a summit meeting with Bunn and the Miller family at the Miller home, where Bunn had been waiting for two days to escort Miller back to Stanford.  In the Miller house, the friendship between Allen and Bunn was severely tested.  Allen not-so-tactfully reminded Bunn that while he was coaching the Kansas freshmen team in the 1920s, Phog had paid for part of his salary from his own pocket after the chancellor had cut the basketball budget, and that it was he who had got Bunn the Stanford job.   “I told Bunn it was hardly sporting of him to come into Kansas and have Stanford men try to persuade Ralph to leave the state,” Allen wrote in a 1937 letter.  “I am pretty frank to say that I didn’t handle him very easy in the last few minutes.”

Allen got his man though, and Miller, a 6’1 forward, went on to become one of KU’s greatest athletes.  He was the starting quarterback on the football team for three years, where he set school and conference passing records. His five touchdown passes against Washburn during his sophomore season still stands as a single-game record at KU. In track, he held the state low hurdle record.  In basketball, he was a three-year starter for Phog, leading KU to the national championship title game in 1940, where the Jayhawks lost to Indiana.  After sitting out the 1941 year with a terrible knee injury, he came back in ’42 to lead the Big Six in scoring with 13.4 points per game, taking the Jayhawks to the conference title and to the NCAA tourney, where KU went 1-1.  In a game that year against Wichita, Miller scored 30 points, setting the mark for most points ever scored in a Kansas game. Overall, Miller played in 59 basketball games and had a 10.2 scoring average.

During his junior year at KU, Miller approached Coach Allen mid-season with the suggestion to install an offense with a post man.  Miller said that Phog didn’t jump at the idea, but subsequently had Miller play post in a scrimmage against Allen’s traditional offense.  They scrimmaged for two hours, with Miller’s team winning.  After a loss to Oklahoma, Allen called Miller to his office and informed him that he had decided to switch to the post offense.  “We hadn’t practiced it all season,” Miller said, “but we used it the rest of the year.”

In 1941, while sitting out the year with a knee injury, Miller coached basketball at Mt. Oread High School, as a part of his practice teaching.  The school was located on the KU campus and was attended mostly by children of KU professors. “There were perhaps 40 or 45 students in the place, maybe 15 or 16 boys.  As professors’ sons, they tended to be highly intelligent, but not endowed with an abundance of physical talent.  I don’t recall that we fared very well,” Miller wrote in his book Spanning the Game.

Following his graduation from Kansas in 1942 with a degree in physical education, Miller served three years in the U.S. Air Force during World War II and was discharged at the rank of first lieutenant.  He played semi-pro football and coached an AAU team, but had no intentions of becoming a coach on a permanent basis.  He tried several jobs that didn’t work out.  So when Wichita East High School called in February, 1948, Miller began his coaching career where he won 63 of 80 games and a state title in 1951.

“I became a coach because I had a wife and two children and I was unemployed.” – Ralph Miller.

He went on to coach at Wichita State University where he compiled a 220-133 record in 14 seasons, and achieved his master’s degree.  “I just have tremendous admiration for what he accomplished,” WSU athletic director Jim Schaus said.  “He embodies everything that is good about college athletics.  He’s one of the great coaches, if not the greatest, in the history of Wichita State basketball.”  Dave Stallworth, former Shocker All-American, said “He was a teacher, a motivator, everything a coach should be.”  

Miller then took over the program at Iowa and finished there with a 95-51 mark in six years, winning two Big Ten titles in 1968 and 1970 and taking the Hawkeyes to the NCAA tournament in 1971. His Hawkeye stars included John Johnson, “Downtown” Freddie Brown and Sam Williams.

Miller went to Oregon State in 1971, where he built the Beavers into a West Coast powerhouse.  He coached for 19 years, compiling a record of 359-186, including four Pac-10 championships and eight NCAA appearances. His 1981 team was ranked No. 1 for nine weeks.  He was twice named PAC-10 Coach of the Year, and coached Gary Payton, who later starred for the Seattle Supersonics.  “Coach Miller is someone who believed in me and helped make me the player I am today,” Payton said.  “He always stressed defense and rewarded players who worked hard on the defensive end.  That type of system gave me the confidence to succeed on both ends of the court.”

In 1988, he became the first active coach ever to be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Miller retired in 1989, ended his coaching career with the sixth-most victories for a Division I coach, accumulating a record of 674-370 (64.6%).  His teams only had three losing season in 38 years as a major college coach. “If I had to sum up my career, I’d say I was a pretty good teacher.”

One of the last links to the root of basketball, Miller died May 15, 2001, at his home at Black Butte Ranch near Corvallis.  “This is a sad day for college basketball.” Beavers coach Ritchie McKay said.  “Ralph had a huge impact on the game and in young peoples’ lives.”  Former Shocker player Leonard Kelley recalled “He was a hero to me.  Sometimes you think heroes will live forever but nobody does.”  That may be the case, but his memory will live forever in basketball annals.

Sources (Books and Articles):

Sources (Internet Biographies):


1981 Beaver Basketball


Steve Johnson: All-American 

Ralph Miller
Top: The 1981 Beaver basketball team, nicknamed Orange Express, rolled through its season to a 26-1 record and a #2 ranking in the nation.

Above: Ralph Miller, 1981's Coach of the Year.

Left: In 1981, Steve Johnson became OSU's highest scorer and the NCAA's most accurate field goal shooter (at the time). He was named a first-team All-American.