Bill Miller, who led the Pleasure Ridge Park High School baseball program to six state championships and posted a state-record 1,144 victories during a 39-year career, died Monday. He was 68.
“The PRP Family has lost a true legend,” PRP principal Kim Salyer said in a news release. “Head baseball coach Bill Miller passed away today after a two-and-a-half-year battle with cancer. Coach Miller was a friend, colleague and beloved teacher at Pleasure Ridge Park High School. He was a father figure to hundreds of players, coaches and members of our community. He taught all of us how to work hard and never quit. In short, Coach Miller made each of us a better person. His influence and life will never be forgotten.”
Miller was diagnosed with stage-4 lung cancer in September of 2015 but remained PRP’s head coach during the 2016 and 2017 seasons. On Feb. 27, he had surgery to remove a tumor from one of his lungs. PRP athletic director Nick Waddell said Miller never completely recovered from that surgery.
Longtime assistants Richie Hawks and Sherman Blaszczyk have coached the team in Miller’s absence this season. Waddell said an announcement on the program’s new head coach will come later this week.
Miller sports a career record of 1,144-305, including a 12-1 mark with the No. 1-ranked Panthers this season, and won state championships in 1994, 1995, 1996, 2008, 2013 and 2017. Miller ranks sixth in the nation all-time in career victories, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations record book.
Miller was inducted into the Dawahares/Kentucky High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame on Saturday but did not attend the ceremony.
Jeff Bowles, coach of PRP’s Sixth Region rival Bullitt East, said Miller helped elevate the level of play of high school baseball in Kentucky.
“He built them into not only a state power but a national power,” Bowles said. “He raised the bar for us when we moved into the Sixth Region. We became better because we had to.”
Bowles said he was impressed with how PRP’s players bought into Miller’s system year after year.
“It was eerie how they always had one or two shutdown pitchers, they had speed and bunted and ran and delayed steals,” Bowles said. “They were always solid defensively. It was like they had a Xerox machine and kept pumping out the same teams. It made it tough on the rest of us guys to keep up with him.”
Miller was a 1967 PRP graduate who went on to play baseball at the University of Alabama. He also played football for one season under legendary coach Bear Bryant.
Miller said he probably was more suited for football than baseball but stuck with the latter because “at the time I was like every kid and thought I was better than I really was,” he said in a 2013 Courier Journal story.
After college, Miller returned to PRP as a teacher and coached the school’s freshman and junior-varsity baseball teams. He became head coach in 1980 when Bill Waddell retired.
Miller had a losing record in his first season (13-14) but followed with 37 consecutive winning seasons.